There's little doubt that the future of the internet is mobile.

As we saw in last week's 12 Provocations on The Future of Social, the next 100 million web users will be mobile first, and in many cases - especially in Asia - they will be mobile only.

This shift to mobile will shape an internet that's very different to the one we know today: rather than a browser-based experience tracked across pages and clicks, the internet will start to merge seamlessly with our physical activities through dedicated apps and augmented products.

So what does that mean for brands?

Enter SoLoMo

Easily one of the least popular names to emerge in recent years, SoLoMo is an abbreviation of 'Social, Local, Mobile', and refers to the convergence of these three essential elements of digital marketing.

SoLoMo functionality brings the best of the internet - information, entertainment, and conversation - to everyday situations, adding a layer of 'augmented utility' to our daily lives.

But how can marketers harness the immense power of SoLoMo?

This was the question we explored in the second of our two presentations at The Internet Show in Singapore last week (see our first - The Future of Social Media - here).

Our aim was to show that SoLoMo offers much more than tactical, location-based discounts, and we focused on highlighting some of the most inspiring uses of SoLoMo that add incremental value to brands over the longer term.

You'll find the full presentation in the SlideShare deck above, but let's dig a little deeper into the case studies we featured in the presentation to add some more context.

Best-in-Class SoLoMo

1. Nike+ GPS
Nike+ has become a case study for marketers the world over for a number of reasons, but it's the seamless GPS integration that makes it such a compelling example of SoLoMo. The Nike team has approached the whole concept from the audience's perspective, identifying functionality that adds real value to runners - from tracking your route to connecting you with other runners, and even letting your friends send you live 'cheers' while you're out on the road. And not a discount code in sight.

2. AmEx Small Business Saturday
This is an initiative that succeeds on so many levels, and yet the idea behind it is so beautifully simple: support local, small business, and AmEx will reward you for your patronage. In order to take advantage of the benefits, shoppers simply need to link their AmEx card to their Foursquare account (a very savvy play from Foursquare too), and check-in to participating small businesses in order to get cash-back on their AmEx cards.

Local merchants didn't need to fund the discounts - the financial rewards were all covered by AmEx - and the small businesses got an extra benefit in the form of increased publicity and advocacy thanks to the Foursquare check-ins at their establishment. You can learn more about the whole initiative in this case study, but here's a short video that explains the basics:

3. Starbucks
Starbucks was one of the early pioneers of SoLoMo rewards, and it continues to deliver value from its approach even after a couple of years. The original concept - rewarding the Foursquare 'Mayor' of each outlet with a discount - is still one of the most popular applications of SoLoMo to this day, largely because it drives that most elusive of all marketing metrics: loyalty. This is the key reason why Starbucks's approach to SoLoMo deals succeeds where Groupon offers so often fail - they centre on the longer-term benefits associated with store visit frequency, rather than the short-term gains associated with driving quick awareness.

Starbucks has experimented with a few different approaches too; one that particularly caught our attention was the brand's recent activity in China, whereby the coffee chain offered a free beverage to everyone who checked in to its outlets if the total check-ins for that week exceeded 20,000.

4. Mini Getaway
SoLoMo functionality is an ideal fit for gamification, and Mini used this to great effect in Stockholm a few months back. As with all the examples in this deck, the underlying concept was very simple: find and 'capture' the virtual Mini via a SoLoMo-based app, and if that virtual Mini is still in your possession at the end of the game period, you walk away with a real Mini Countryman. The game succeeded in driving average engagement of over 5 hours - 600 times more than a typical TV ad. The concept was so successful that the car brand extended it to Tokyo too. This video explains the case in a bit more depth:

5. Jimmy Choo Trainer Hunt
This campaign is already a few years old, but it's still one of the best examples of how to use SoLoMo to deliver a richer brand experience. The basic campaign mechanic involved a pair of Jimmy Choo sneakers 'checking in' to various locations around London; if anyone checked in to the same location within 5 minutes of the shoes, that person won a pair of the sneakers in their size. However, the magic of the campaign was the locations the shoes checked in to - alongside the obvious store locations, the brand took people on a 'scavenger hunt' across some of its favourite places in London, including bars, restaurants, and other locations that helped to associate the brand with a particular lifestyle. As one of the earliest SoLoMo campaigns, it also succeeded in driving a considerable volume of conversation.

6. Starwood Asia
The Starwood hotel brand has teamed up with Chinese location-based app Jiepang to offer real-world loyalty points to guests who check-in to any of its portfolio of properties. These reward points can be added to the guest's existing Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty account, offering additional 'bonus points' in return for the social advocacy and publicity generated by the check-in - a simple win-win that helps extend the brand's impact via individual influence and authentic word of mouth.

7. Walgreens
As we saw above with Starbucks, location-based (LBS) deals still have a role to play in strategic SoLoMo, provided they are used to add value. The problem with too many LBS deals is that they offer people discounts on items they were already going to buy, but Walgreens has found a sensible antidote to this. When someone checks in to a Walgreens store via Foursquare, they can 'unlock' one of a series of 'specials', which can vary by time and day. In this way, the brand can drive cross-selling and increase cart size for each visit - an approach that adds incremental value in the longer-term, without cannibalising any pre-planned behaviour.

Back to You

So what can we learn from these brands, and how can you apply their winning thinking to your own marketing?

Here are our 5 key take-aways:

  • Start with the audience, not the technology: novelty has a limited window of value, but real benefits keep people coming back for more. Identify what people actually care about, and build the technology around that.
  • Sharing must be about audience benefit: if you want people to publicly endorse your brand, make sure you offer them something compelling in return for their endorsement. The question to ask yourself is, 'What's in it for them?', and not just 'What's in it for my brand?'
  • Add value through utility: no-one will turn down a discount, but people will go out of their way to get additional benefits. Offer people what they really need, not just a cheaper version of what they already know they want.
  • Keep it simple: this is the critical rule if you want widespread adoption. The number one reason for poor SoLoMo performance is asking people to do too much; any more than '2 steps to benefit', and you'll lose the vast majority of potential participants.
  • Build relationships, not spectacle: 97% off a full-day spa package is great, but people's attention is quickly diverted when tomorrow's deal offers 98% off a meal at that Michelin-star restaurant. The real value in SoLoMo lies in connecting with people, exchanging mutual value, and building relationships over time.

The exciting news is that we're only at the beginning of the SoLoMo adventure, and the next few months will doubtless bring even more inspiring case studies.

And on that note, we have some exciting SoLoMo ideas of our own here at We Are Social, so don't hesitate to drop us a note if you'd like to explore the ways we can help you to harness its potential for your brand too.

Please email us if you'd like a copy of the presentation.