Ground Signal Looks to Help Brands Understand Location — And Influence Consumers

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With the rise of location-based tools on social media, it’s becoming more and more important for brands to know who is saying what about their locations in real-time.

Location-based audience platform Ground Signal, which came out of stealth a couple of weeks ago, is banking on the idea that the ability to decipher these social signals and potentially influence specific people at physical locations could be game-changing for multi-location brands and businesses. The company already has about 35 brand clients (Coca-Cola and Marriott Hotels among them), and boasts big names like Mark Cuban and Gary Vaynerchuk among its investors.

We recently caught up with Ground Signal’s co-founder and CEO Tony Longo to talk about what companies can do to take advantage of location data to target influencers and engage with customers in real time.

What kinds of companies would use Ground Signal’s technology, and what differentiates the product?
When it comes to Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare, et cetera, you simply cannot search their API by location. In other words, a lot of this information we have is inaccessible by anyone else and you’d actually have to go and build the type of platform we built to get access to the content.

Over 90 percent of social media posted at a brand’s [retail] location does not include hashtags, keywords, at-mentions, location tags — nothing — making that media undiscoverable and thus a lost opportunity for individual businesses.

There are some fantastic enterprise social media platforms out there that are awesome at managing your brand and what people are saying about your brand. We believe there is an entirely new audience, almost like the new hashtag. It’s undiscovered because you can’t actually get it from the source. You can’t get the data from Twitter or Instagram. You actually have to go and ingest all of the world’s social media, which we’ve done, and index it in a database by location so you can offer a platform that can search social media by location and that’s our core value proposition. Whether you are an events company, a retail store or a hotel, basically any form of location-based business, you can use our tool to see all the media in real time and even access historical data.

What does access to this data allow marketers to do?
For a business owner with a physical location, they can actually see what their customers are doing on social media while they are on the premises. They can then engage with them if they are asking a question, or if they need help.

A new innovative use case that’s been bubbling up and has been a major driver of a lot of our business to date has been around influencers. We’ve been hearing a lot of about this influencer-marketing phenomenon and I think it’s here to stay. These screens in our hands are the billboards of the future. They are great avenues to put strategic, well-placed advertising in front of my eyes.

We all live in this follower economy. I follow tech journalists, brands I love like Belstaff and Red Bull, professional athletes, a few celebrities and of course a whole bunch of custom motorcycle builders. However, my followers is what makes up my influence status to a brand or a business. Who or what is @tonylongo influential in and what is the value of his influence to that specific brand?  That’s the big question we see marketers trying to figure out right now.

A great example of location-based influencer marketing is in the hospitality industry. Lots of social media is being produced inside the hotel, from all types of people, across all types of networks, but what can the hotel do to take advantage of all of this great content?

Dependent upon what influence means to that specific hotel brand, they can now make decisions in real-time and activate those who they believe will add value to their business. It’s not as simple as choosing the people with the most followers, it’s all about choosing the right people who share similar interests and values to your brand and have an engaged audience of followers where your message will be heard by people you want to be in front of. This is at the heart of Ground Signal.

What are the use cases outside of marketing? How is location-based social data being used to improve other aspects of business?
We just ran a pilot test with a company that buys advertising. We partnered with them, ran a side-by-side test with this media purchasing company and our location data, and actually had a cost-per-install that was almost four times lower than the very sophisticated ad buying technology. That was a very big win for us.

The use case was for a golf company. We went and circled all the golf courses in the entire world and ran our algorithms and artificial intelligence over the courses (what type of people are here, who are they, what are they like, what is their influence, their networks) and were able to take that intelligence and run it into the ad purchasing software and gave us those results.

Has there been an acceleration in the number of social media posts that have location on them?
Yes, specifically Instagram where the amount of their user adoption and user growth is astonishing. That company is growing at an incredible rate.

We are seeing quite a bit of acceleration on geosocial content and I think there are several factors for this:

  • Mobile as a platform continues to grow. Simply put, more people with smartphones in their hands.
  • The sharing ecosystem. We are sharing more than ever.
  • These communities are strengthening, for example just this past December, Instagram hit 300M users.
  • LaaS: Location as a Story (I just made this up), but we see more and more that “where you are” has become a major part of the story with social media sharing. So, naturally the ability to simply add that context creates added value to the user and their followers.

The combination of all of these colliding:  Mobile, Social Scale, Deep Communities and LaaS creates a perform storm from which we truly believe will benefit everyone — consumers and businesses alike.

Liz Taurasi is a Street Fight contributor.