In fact, if you can open your mind to thinking more broadly about apps - you might actually find that they offer a big opportunity for you to promote your business in a completely different way. The fundamental thing you need to remember is that you don’t need your own app in order to use them effectively to promote your business. The reason is a trend in apps that many people are calling "augmented reality." This futuristic term simply refers to the practice of people using their iPhone or other app-enabled mobile device to access information that can enrich a real life experience they may be having. Examples of this include pulling up the Wikipedia entry for a tourist site you might take a photo of (Wikitude), or Yelp’s Monacle app which can help you find a great place to eat nearby, or a range of location based overlay Twitter apps that let you find the closest subway station or where your friends who have shared their locations may be at that moment.
Augmented reality is a fancy way of saying that you can now get information through a portable interface that adds context to your current situation and whatever you may happen to be doing. Here are three ways that might be important for your business:
1. Reviews. Many apps are now allowing people to access reviews on the go - so not only can they find places they might want to go, but they can select one over another based on ratings. It is one thing to read ratings at home before heading somewhere or being able to have more context. On the mobile phone, however, reviews can lead to instant decisions and cause a customer to choose to come to you, or to avoid your establishment altogether. It is just another reason why you should pay attention to what people are saying online about your business - regardless of what industry you are in.
2. Findability. The obvious point here is about making sure that if you have a physical location for your business, your customers can find it if they do a search on a simple maps tool like Google. The more interesting element of this, however, is that more and more people are using these tools to BE FINDABLE. Apps like FourSquare which allow people to "check in" to real locations and broadcast their whereabouts are growing and the idea of being "always on" is a consistent element in the lives of many. How can you make your location more findable? First of all make sure you're listed on Google and Yahoo Maps and the address is correct. Then you can create a hashtag keyword for your destination (such as #greatstore - using a combination of keywords that apply to your business) and display it somewhere visible in your location. Then monitor to see if anyone is using them and what they are saying.
3. Amplified Sharing. Related to the last piece of advice about hashtags and people broadcasting their location is the idea that you can help to amplify what people share about their experience of your business online if you can get them to create something in the moment that they are there. It is commonly known that it is a lot more likely someone will post a negative review rather than a positive one ... but if you can get your customers to share their experience at your location LIVE, then you can increase the odds that they may share something positive. Do this consistently and you'll find that you are dramatically increasing the potential customers of yours who will share positive experiences online.
* Image Credit: http://threeminds.organic.com/yelpaug.jpg