By Colleen Jones published May 4, 2011

Take Your Content on Location with Location-Based Services

If you’re going mobile with your content marketing, then consider location-based services (LBS). A location-based service is a network that provides content to your mobile phone or devices based on where you are. Your physical location is the trigger for content. If you’ve ever checked in using FourSquare, you’ve used a location-based service.

But, location-based services can go far beyond the check in.  LBS is a big opportunity to influence people in a particular place. To help you see the possibilities, I’m sharing an example from North Carolina State University.

An example: On Campus at NC State University

On Campus is a customized location-based service for the NC State University campus. Through its mobile applications, On Campus offers content and features that depend on location. Some examples include check-ins, event promotions, digital rewards, points, leader boards, maps of nearby locations, reviews, and photo sharing.

“On Campus connects people to places, places to people, and people to people in places,” says Tim Jones., the university’s Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Communications.

What’s happening on a university campus? A lot. That’s why On Campus features content about events very prominently. Students and faculty can know what’s happening anytime anywhere.

To reward people for attending certain events, On Campus cleverly incorporates its own branded badges. It’s like content candy.

Remember to plan

It’s not hard to imagine the possibilities of LBS for other industries driven by location.  Disney is already using a location-based service to guide people through their amusement parks. Even a retailer such as The Home Depot could use such a service to help customers find what they need in their large warehouse-like stores.

Now, before you jump into a location-based service, remember planning content is key.  As with a website, you must have the right content ready. And, you have to be prepared to maintain the content over time.

For example, let’s turn back to the events content. Did the university simply dump the content from their website into their LBS? No. Instead, the university made two types of changes—editorial and architecture.

Editorial changes

NC State University expanded their editorial process to include criteria for selecting events to feature in On Campus as well as a feature schedule. “We’re now mapping out the best process—staff responsibilities, editorial slant, featured event partnerships and schedule—to clean up the location data and keep event content relevant and useful for our users,” says Jones.

Architecture changes

At the same time, NC State University faced architecture issues. To keep the process efficient and the content usable for a mobile device, Jones did not want to recreate event content from scratch or to integrate each department’s individual calendar. So, he and his team decided to create a special feed of the main university calendar content. This feed provides only the appropriate event content to On Campus.

In the future, NC State University plans to use this feed in other ways. One possibility is to tie the event content to a QR code (bar code) on a campus building. When someone walks by the building, he or she can see the events scheduled in that building.

“We wouldn’t be able to use single source content across several location-aware channels without planning,” says Jones.

Summing up

So, when you venture into LBS imagine the possibilities. Then, get practical with your planning. Think about both the editorial and the architecture implications for your content.  That way you’ll get the right content to the right people at the right time, and make the most of your opportunity to influence people on location.

Special thanks to Tim Jones, Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Communications at NC State University, for sharing his example.

Author: Colleen Jones

Colleen is the author of Clout (New Riders) and the principal of Content Science, a boutique consulting firm in Atlanta, GA. As a pioneer of user experience and content strategy, Colleen has guided or supported strategic initiatives for a wide range of organizations including Equifax, InterContinental Hotels Group, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Cingular Wireless (now AT&T). Her upcoming eBook, "Does Your Content Work?" will be released in 2014. Follow her on Twitter at @leenjones.

Other posts by Colleen Jones

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