Don't Take SoLoMo So Literally

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Jennifer Wise, Forrester Research
Jennifer Wise, Forrester Research

What's the real marketing opportunity SoLoMo presents?

I have to say it: Perhaps it's time we stop using the acronym SoLoMo—not because marketers should ignore it, but because taking it literally could result in marketers missing the significant ROI opportunities the acronym represents. The problem with the term is that it places too much emphasis on tactics and devices, and not enough emphasis on the evolving behaviors of your perpetually connected customers and the new ways that are available to interact with them.

In the same way that some marketers follow their just because instinct regarding the launch of mobile apps, SoLoMo's promising convergence of social media with location-based information through a mobile device may lead marketers to craft a marketing strategy with a narrow goal—it's not just about combining these components. The problem with this approach is that it puts the cart before the horse by going tactical before considering your customers' behaviors and your marketing goals. Does every marketer need to have their customers check in to a physical location, take a mobile picture, and upload it to the brand's Facebook or Twitter account? Probably not. It may not be that all of your customers are heavy Twitter users or your business may not have a physical location.

So, what's the real marketing importance behind the buzzword? There are three facts to understand about today's consumers: They have myriad digital connections available to them anytime, anywhere; they're extending their relationships with other consumers and with other brands from more locations and doing it more frequently; and their interactivity drives their expectation that information be available to them on any device, at any time. This interactivity offers opportunities for marketers because they can establish relationships with customers at more times and in more situations than ever before. The challenge is to not abuse this constant connection. It's vital to craft strategies that are relevant to your customer and that meet their high mobile expectations.

Let's break down the components of SoLoMo to see what they really mean for marketers:

A component-by-component breakdown

The “So” is about a person, not social media. Your customers don't consider social media a channel; they just use it as a natural extension of their relationships with others and with brands. And it's important to remember that they do this in other ways, too: calling, texting, emailing, or even visiting a site. Like them, marketers shouldn't be focused on social media as a tactic, but they should focus on who their customer is, what the relationship is with others and the brand, and how the brand can enhance and deepen the relationship.

The “Lo” is about context, not location. Mobile provides rich data for marketers to boost relevancy, which includes location-data. This can enhance marketing campaigns through tactics like proximity-based messaging and check-ins. But this location data is just the tip of the iceberg, and marketers should combine it with other contextual cues to provide truly relevant marketing to the right people. And beyond knowing where your customers are, consider what they're doing there, and why they may interact with your brand there. For example, sending a proximity-based notification about a sale to the person with your mobile app

who is walking by your retail store at 2 p.m. on a weekend can be highly effective. But sending a message to the person running by your retail store at 7:30 a.m. trying to catch the bus is just a waste of marketing dollars.

The “Mo” is about perpetually connected customers, not mobile devices. Customers don't think about devices; they usually turn to whichever one makes the most sense in that moment, whether it's a smartphone, a tablet, or a desktop. So don't set out to craft just any smartphone strategy. Instead, focus on who your customer is, what their relationship with your brand is, what the context in which they'll interact with you is, and, last, on what device they'll be using at that moment to enable the interaction.

So while SoLoMo itself is a buzzword, the opportunities it speaks to aren't simply shiny, temporary trends. It's imperative to not let the acronym lead marketers to believe that combining social media, location information, and a mobile device into one strategy is the Holy Grail. Rather, it represents a larger, more fundamental shift in your now perpetually connected customers' behaviors and expectations. And this in turn requires a shift from you, the marketer, to craft relevant marketing programs that are customer-centric and device- and tactic-agnostic.

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Jennifer Wise, Forrester Research

Jenny Wise, an analyst serving marketing leadership professionals at Forrester Research, focuses on emerging marketing tactics research, with emphasis on mobile devices, tablets, and gamification. Prior to her role as an analyst, Wise was a researcher on Forrester's interactive marketing research team. She has contributed to reports about audience targeting, consumer privacy, gamification, tablet marketing, and mobile marketing, several of which have been featured in industry publications. Wise holds a bachelor's in economics from Trinity College. She's also done post-graduate coursework in information design, interaction design, and app design at San Francisco State University.

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