SoLoMo: The Newest Buzz Term in Marketing Communications

solomoEvery few years or so, we start hearing a pithy (and sometimes obnoxious) new buzz term in marketing communications.

The most recent entry into the lexicon is SoLoMo – a cutesy amalgam of three terms:  Social Media, Location, and Mobile Devices.

SoLoMo purports to convey the convergence of these three elements into a powerful new driver for marketing:  sparking audience engagement and brand usage via the use of social media, and targeting consumers via their mobile devices when they are locationally proximate.

businesspersonBeyond the inevitable “wink-wink, nudge-nudge” aspects of this term and the “oh-so relevant” connotation it has for those who choose to name-drop it in casual conversation, another drawback I see is the term’s emphasis on tactics rather than on the true meaning of today’s always-connected customers and the potential this offers for relationship-building.

Right now, there are more than a few company and brand marketers who are trying to figure out the best way to have their customers do all sorts of things that will benefit a product’s acceptance and position in the market — things like checking in to a physical location, then taking a mobile picture and uploading it to an Instagram or Facebook page.

This over-reliance on “shiny new object tactics” is what gets marketers to the same place as designing a new and novel app that doesn’t actually fill a true need – and hence becomes an inglorious failure.

Here’s what’s actually going on with consumers today:

  • They have more digital connections available to them than ever before.
  • Because of the pervasiveness of interactivity, consumers expect information to be available to them at any time – and on any device.

The good news is that marketers can establish just these sorts of connections with consumers, simply by using the very same social platforms.  The bigger challenge is making those connections meaningful and relevant.  That’s where effectiveness so often falls by the roadside.

Social media is an “ism” to many marketers … whereas to regular people, they hardly think of it that way.  For them, it’s just another way to engage in their relationships with friends, acquaintances, industry colleagues, fellow hobbyist … and favorite brands.  Other than the digital aspect of the communication, there’s really very little difference from the connections people have established and maintained for years the old-fashioned way.

Location is much more than simply where someone happens to be.  It’s the context of understanding when — and what — the person is doing at or near that location.  Knowing that makes for a more relevant – and potentially profitable — interactions.

Today’s focus on Mobile everything has become almost as myopic as marketers’ tunnel-focus on desktops was a few years back.  Today, we’re dealing with consumers who are perpetually connected.  As for which device, it simply depends on what’s handy at the moment – desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones.  So, strategies and tactics that focus on one or two of these to the exclusion of the others will fall short of the mark.

While we can give an acknowledging nod to the SoLoMo buzz term, the key is to recognize that it’s actually about today’s perpetually connected consumers — and all of the expectations that come along with that.

In other words, marketers need to be people-focused … but tactics-agnostic.

Smartphones surge … and phone apps follow right behind.

Smartphones surge in the marketplace ... phone apps right behind them.Media survey firm Nielsen is reporting that as of the end of 2009, about one in five wireless subscribers in the U.S. owned a smartphone. That’s up significantly from the ~14% who owned them at the end of 2008, and adoption is only expected to accelerate in the coming months.

So what’s going on with phone apps, now that a larger chunk of the population is able to download and use them? Nielsen is seeing about 15% of mobile subscribers downloading at least one app in a 30-day period.

Perhaps not surprisingly, those who own iPhones are more apt to download apps compared to people who own Android phones, Palms or BlackBerrys. Far more apps have been developed for the iPhone, although Android is feverishly trying to catch up.

Which apps are most popular? It goes without saying that games – free and paid – are quite popular. But the four most popular apps are Facebook, Google Maps, the Weather Channel and Pandora.

And where are the news apps in all this? Not even on the radar screen, it turns out.

… Seems people are getting more than enough news blasted out to them 24/7/365 without needing to sign up for a special app to deliver more of it — thank you very much.