Technology I’d Like to See: Google’s Self-Driving Car Using Google Maps and Mobile Pay-Per-Click

I’m at Barcamp Nashvile right now with Keith Gilchrist of Johnson City, TN and Andre Natta of Birmingham, AL. We were discussing the new Google Car, and the fact that it can drive for you.Will Google's new driverless car outperform Herbie the Love Bug?

While we’re not sure what the Google Car will do for you yet (they’re not even sure if or when it will be available for retail sales), there are a few ways we can see Google integrating its search engine features into its car:

  • Use Google Maps to plot your most commonly visited sites — home, office, favorite coffee shop — and the routes you take to get there.
  • Monitor traffic on Google Maps, and not only help you avoid traffic jams, but even relieve congestion by redirecting traffic from heavily congest areas.
  • Keep track of where your friends and family live, thanks to Google’s social media efforts, and plot out the best routes to get there.
  • Let you search for a new restaurant while you’re on the road — voice activated, of course — listen to the user reviews, call them on your Google Voice phone, and then make a reservation.
  • Check you in on Foursquare or Gowalla when you arrive at the restaurant.
  • And the really cool thing, personalize your billboards. Think of all those video billboards you can see right now, the ones that work like giant TVs. What if they could replace the old-school static billboards with green screen, like they use in TV studios. Whenever your Google Car drives past a billboard, it pops up a personal ad that only you can see from your car, thanks to the new transparent TV screen that functions as a high-impact windshield too. It’s pay-per-click at 70 miles-per-hour.

Special thanks to Andre and Keith for helping me work out some of these ideas (the commonly visited locations and friends and family maps are Andre’s idea).

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available for pre-order on I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy, who I also helped write Twitter Marketing For Dummies (another affiliate link).

I’m Thinking Arby’s Social Media — An Open Letter to the New VP of Digital and Social Media Marketing

It seems that Arby’s is jumping on the social media bandwagon, having formed a new Digital and Social Media team, and hiring a new VP of Digital and Social Media. This was later confirmed by Mashable, which listed a job for a new Manager of Social Media Manager, that would be part of “a newly formed team reporting to the Vice President of Digital & Social Media.”

From what I have heard, Arby’s hired their new VP just recently, and has made social media a big part of their marketing effort. So, to welcome this new VP to the social media fold, here is an open letter of recommendations to their VP as they start their new ventures:

  1. Find a couple social media mentors you can talk to on a regular basis. Even if you have a few years of social media experience, you’re going to need someone to talk to on a regular basis, to bounce ideas off of, and to give you helpful hints on your efforts.
  2. Treat social media as a listening tool more than just a push marketing tool. If people complain or praise Arby’s or an individual restaurant, respond to them. If they had a bad experience and talk about it on Twitter, Yelp, or the Arby’s Facebook page, respond to them publicly, apologize for the problem, and offer to fix it. If they like something, thank them. If they ask for something or lament the loss of a product, explain why it went away and if it will be back. If customers see that you’re interested in their input, they’ll give you more of it. And if they know they’re being heard, they’ll return to your store over and over because you’re listening to them, and the other guys are not.
  3. Trick out your Facebook business page, and then monitor it heavily. Hire a Facebook design expert to create a good looking page. You have good traffic, and 114,000+ people like it, but I don’t see any communication with your customers. However, you do have a couple of Arby’s fans who are talking for you. In addition to your own communication, you should reward the people who are talking on your behalf. Reward them with free stuff once in a while so they continue to be your brand evangelists.
  4. Get an account for either Radian6 or ScoutLabs to monitor the social media sentiment about Arby’s. Find out where and when people are talking about your restaurants. Monitor the complaints and respond to them. Monitor the compliments and thank them.
  5. Set up ever Arby’s restaurant on Foursquare, Gowalla, and Yelp. Follow these networks on a regular basis and watch what people are saying. Run special promotions, like a free shake or sandwich to the mayor of a restaurant. (Make sure the store managers and staff know that this promotion is running.) This may not be possible with franchise-owned restaurants, but see if you can get them to buy into the idea. Let the franchise restaurants run their own campaigns too.
  6. Create a mobile version of your website. Include a restaurant locator so people can do a quick search to find the nearest Arby’s restaurant. Be sure to direct people to it if you’re communicating with someone who is looking for the nearest Arby’s or is just looking for a place to go to lunch. And don’t make the mobile version a Flash version. Flash doesn’t play on the iPhones or iPads, so all of your content will be lost to the millions of Apple users. Plus, Flash is not searchable by Google, which means you’re getting absolutely no Google benefits at all.
  7. Create a Twitter search for terms like “#Arby’s,” “roast beef,” and even some of your competitors. Set up these search columns in TweetDeck, and respond to anyone who tweets about any of these terms, when it’s appropriate. If someone says they’re thinking about Arby’s for lunch, send them the URL for the restaurant locator on the website (especially if it’s mobile enabled). Let your new Manager of Social Media handle this, as well as the interns you will no doubt be able to hire.
  8. Learn how to use Google Analytics and tie it into your different social networking properties. See what traffic is being driven to and from your different sites, and how many people are redeeming the different offers you’re making. You’re actually better off using a paid service like Yahoo Analytics, but Google is a great place to get started because it’s free, lets you monitor campaigns, and is one of the most thorough analytics services out there. Plus there are some great books, like Google Analytics in 10 Minutes a Day to get you started. This isn’t going to be a way to accurately monitor something as large-scale as a multi-million user, national scale campaign (ScoutLabs and Radian6 are going to give you a better idea of sentiment and the actual communication threads), it’s at least a good way to watch trends and get basic information at a glance

While this will only scratch the surface of what you should be doing, it’s at least a place to get started. Good luck in your new position and with your new team.

Coupons + Geo-Location = Technology I’d Like To See

My friend, Patric Welch (aka Mr. Noobie), writes an occasional blog feature he calls Technology I’d Like to See (TILTS). I liked it so much that I steal the idea from time to time, and share the occasional TILTS idea I have, to see if I can get the parties involved to actually make it happen. Kids playing Foursquare. It's a play on the social networking service by the same name.

We’re starting to see how some geo-location services, like Geoloqi (in closed beta), will automatically perform services for you based on you just entering a specific location, like check you into a Foursquare location if you have been there for more than 10 minutes, or send you an SMS note the next time you go to a grocery store.

My point is, geo-location is becoming the hot new social networking service for consumers, and savvy marketers are already taking advantage of it. Check in at a restaurant, and you could get a discount off your dinner. Stop in at a bookstore, and you may get a notice that your favorite author has a new book coming out.

So here’s my TILTS idea:

I would like to see one of these coupon services, like Groupon or, sell on-the-spot coupons, through Foursquare, Gowalla, or any of the other geo-location services. If I check in to a restaurant that has a coupon, I want the option to buy the coupon right there, and be able to redeem it from my phone.

Currently, if I buy a coupon, I have to print it out and give it to them. And if I’m already in a restaurant, then printing out the coupon is not an option. But what if I could share a coupon with a custom ID number (or bar code or QR code) that the server can enter into the computer, and it will honor the coupon, and insure I can’t cheat and use it again? (A local coupon provider, Coupons4Indy already has one-time mobile coupons you can redeem, so I know this can be done.)

This way, sites like and can take advantage of the growing geo-location trend, marketers will have more ways to improve the ROI of their social media efforts, and the consumer benefits by finding surprise deals at their favorite restaurant.

What do you think? Can you think of a way to improve this? Or where are the flaws that you see? And if you’re from any of the coupon or geo-location services, what do you think? Is this even doable? And do you need my mailing address to send me a finder’s fee?

Can Geo-Location Services Get Too Clingy? A Neer Review

I like geo-location services. If nothing else, I like the competition of trying to wrest mayorship of a restaurant or office from a social media buddy. But I also like it for the ability to see if any of my friends are nearby, and I’ll send a quick Twitter DM for lunch or coffee.

I also like how some restaurants like Scotty’s Brewhouse or a museum like Conner Prairie will offer specials to people who check in (Scotty’s: 10% off each visit you check in, plus a special bonus to mayors; Conner Prairie: $2 off your general admission on your first check in).

To me, Foursquare has actually told me a little bit more about my friends, and gives us something to talk about when we bump into each other. (I once had someone come up and introduce themselves to me at Hubbard & Cravens because they saw I was the mayor and recognized my avatar photo.)

But the thing I’ve always been careful of is to not tell everyone every time I check in. I turned off my Twitter and Facebook notifications, and only submit a location on special occasions (i.e. checking in at the Pittsburgh Steeler’s practice facility sometime back in May or June, or checking in at an Indianapolis Colts’ preseason game against the Bengals). But otherwise, I try to leave my general networks alone. Plus I just don’t want to pester everyone with my new location anytime I move three feet to the left.

So I’m a little leery of this new private geo-location service called Neer. Okay, maybe not leery, but I rolled my eyes a little harder than necessary, and gave myself a headache. Here’s what Neer says they do.

Neer allows you to privately and automatically share your location with the people you care about. Not everywhere you go, just the places that really matter.

Neer works in the background so you don’t have to. Go ahead, leave work and leave your phone in your pocket. We’ll let your loved ones know you’re on your way!

In other words, let’s say I select “Work” and “Home” as your important places — this is called “geo-fencing” — and I choose my wife as the person I want to notify. Then, my wife will get a little message when:

  • I arrive at work in the morning.
  • I leave the office for lunch or a meeting.
  • I arrive back at the office from lunch or a meeting.
  • I leave the office to go home that night.
  • And when I get home.

I don’t know, it seems a little creepy. I mean, I love my wife, but I don’t want her to keep track of every move I make. And I don’t want to keep track of every move she makes. (10 cool points to everyone who just said “every bond you break” in their heads.)

However, to be fair, Neer probably isn’t for me. As TechCrunch said in an article,

Neer is for people who constantly have to keep track of each other and already do so with phone calls, such as husbands and wives with small children. Instead of calling every night to see if a spouse has left work yet in time to help feed the kids or put them in bed, or whether the school drop-off was successful, they can get a reassuring geo-alert.

Since this isn’t an issue for me, I don’t need the constant reassurance or helicopter spousal attention that Neer will give me.

However, I do like the idea of passively sharing my location with a few necessary people, even actively. In fact, the more I wrinkle my nose at the idea, it makes the blood rush to my brain, and I can think of a few business and personal applications where this might be useful:

  • Long haul truckers who follow a specific route over and over. They can text stops to their family or their dispatcher when they have reached a certain location, like crossing a state line or arriving at a filling station.
  • In town delivery drivers who follow a set route. Their dispatchers can keep up with them via Neer.
  • Government employees who have to visit certain locations as part of a regular route.
  • People who live in one city and work in another. A friend recently spent nearly a year working in Fort Wayne — 2 hours away — and had to call his wife every time he arrived at his apartment on Sunday night, and when he left the office to head home on Friday nights.
  • Parents who send their kids off to college with a dodgy car. Just enter “the dorm” or “campus” into Neer, and you can be sure when your kid makes it back safely.

Okay, so maybe it’s not all creepy. Just a little clingy. But in the right circumstances, and to the right people, I can see this being a valuable tool for some people.

So here’s a video explaining what you can do with it.