Five Useful Free iPhone apps for Local Business Marketers

iPhone in handThe iPhone is a handy little business too for business local marketing, here are just a few apps, all free, that can help you create content, spy on your competition and keep up with what your customers are saying about you.

Share 360 degree views with Photosynth

Creating 360 degree interactive panoramas used to cost lots of money and take lots of time. The only places you’d see them would be fancy hotel and real estate websites. Armed with just an iPhone 4 and a copy of Microsoft’s (yes, I was surprised too!) free Photosynth app, and a Windows Live account (Hotmail, live.com etc) you can shoot, upload and embed on your own website a very neat 360 panorama. The embedding part requires you to log in to Photosynth.net with your Windows Live account to get the embed code. Any business that has a physical location they want to show off has no excuse now!

Keep your finger on the pulse with Twitter

For instantly updating your Twitter stream, posting news and specials, keeping up with what your followers are doing, or checking up on your saved searches. Make sure to turn on notifications for mentions and replies to maintain a decent response time to enquiries too.

Spy on the competition with Foursquare

Foursquare might not have hit the mainstream in terms of user numbers, but those that do use it are very much the vocal minority. As a business owner you should claim your listing, make sure your business is correctly classified and run specials anyway as the app draws attention to anywhere offering a special. So why would you want to use the iPhone app itself, when you really shouldn’t be checking in to your own location? A few reasons:

1. Keeping track of any new comments by Foursquare users (especially complaints!) at your own business but also your competitors.
2. Finding out who your (Foursquare using) regulars are, and maybe following/friending them
3. Keeping tabs on any specials your competitors are offering
4. Seeing where’s hot nearby right now (places with lots of people checking in)
5. Posting photos of your location – you can upload photos directly from the iPhone app, and places with photos get more attention

Update your Facebook page on the go

Whilst the Facebook app doesn’t make it easy to update your Facebook Page status on the go (a menu item for ‘Your Pages’ would be nice!) all you need to do is search for your Page then when you’ve found it, add it to Favorites, then it will appear on the second page of your Facebook app’s menu. Once there, getting into it is simple. Anything you post via the Facebook app will get attributed to the Page, not your personal account.

Create video slideshows with Animoto

With the Animoto app and a free Animoto account you can create 30 second videos by picking photos from your iPhone Photo Library, choosing a soundtrack from Animoto’s categorised collections then share that video on Facebook, Twitter, by email and more. Paid accounts are available that lift the time restriction and for a per video fee you can create higher resolution versions. Creating a video slideshow like this is a fun thing to do when you have a special event. You can get something up on Facebook within minutes.

 

image credit: John Karakatsanis via Creative Commons on Flickr.

Getting an RSS Feed to post to your Facebook Page’s wall

Sounds so easy doesn’t it?

Here’s what I learnt in trying to get a custom-created RSS feed (not one generated by blog software) to appear as posts/status updates on the wall of a Facebook Page. This information applies to all kinds of RSS feeds though. If you’re using WordPress, there are several plugins that purport to offer this functionality. In my experience they can be unreliable, usually through no fault of the plugin author or WordPress, rather Facebook changing something that breaks the plugin.

The purpose of the exercise was to get the latest special offers on an e-commerce site appearing on the company’s Facebook Page wall.

Facebook Notes – not quite what we’re looking for

The most straightforward option should be the one provided by Facebook, right? Notes offers the ability to import a blog/RSS feed into the Notes tab of your Facebook page and in so doing post an announcement for each ‘note’ to the Wall. Sounds great but what you get in practice is a link from the Wall to the individual note, which appears in it’s entirety. The objective was to take a user from the Facebook Wall post straight to product page on the e-commerce site, so this clumsy and unnecessary intermediate step means Notes doesn’t do it for us.

RSS Tab for Pages – does what it says on the tin, but no more

This application, which creates an RSS tab on the Facebook Page imports the feed just fine, and if that’s all you need then it’s all gravy. It is supposed to also post items to the Wall, but that feature doesn’t work.

Social RSS – Fell at the first hurdle

With a score of 2.3 out of 5, and the latest post referring to the fact that things are broken, this one didn’t merit a try.

RSS for Pages – Disappointing

I’d expected more from Involver, “the web’s most trusted social marketing platform”. RSS for Pages doesn’t deliver, or at least, it didn’t work how I’d hoped. It created a ‘News’ tab with my RSS feed on, but there wasn’t anywhere to specify that items should be posted to the Wall (and none of the items were), even though automatic posting to the wall is mentioned as a feature (though that may be in the paid for version only) and the suggestion that I upgrade to get a refresh time of better than once a day, with zero information on cost, had me searching for an alternative.

RSS Graffiti – We have a winner!

RSS Graffiti works almost exactly how I want (I wouldn’t mind being able to remove the ‘via RSS Grafitti’ annotation, but that’s probably a compulsory thing, and the Source and Published lines seem like overkill). The main thing is the user clicks the link and goes to the page you want, not some interstitial page. There’s no unnecessary tab added to the page, the settings for how it works all make sense, and you have a fair degree of control, including the ability to post to the Wall items dated in the past – handy if you need to get some older items posted.

If you’ve found any other solutions that work well, please share them in the comments.

image credit: jovike via Creative Commons on Flickr

If you’re going to use QR codes…

QR Code at metro stationPlease don’t make the mistake these people made. That QR code goes to their homepage. Not the product detail page for the camera they’ve clearly spent a lot of money advertising. QR Codes finally give you a metric of success for your offline advertising (whether you use them to compare different placements, or different media types, as long as you’re doing a fair comparison, this data can be incredibly useful). Here’s a quick three point checklist:

Does the QR code get the user to the right page – a landing page that is relevant to the product being advertised?

Have you included tracking variables in the URL (such as Google Analytics utm_medium, utm_source and utm_campaign parameters)?

Are you paying attention to the statistic being generated?

Because otherwise, you’re just perpetuating the same problem of offline advertising of not knowing for sure what works and what doesn’t.