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How AMEX And Foursquare, Involver And Klout Are Shaping The Conversation Marketing Revolution

American Express deal with Foursquare and a Klout-Involver storyline create for industries real opportunities for measuring ROI on social media advertising and marketing, also herald a new age of content producers who listen well, and write beautifully.

American
Express just took out the U.S. Postal Service as a middle man for the coupon
delivery strategy it started doing by putting offers on the backs of billing
statements every month.

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In widely
reported news, American Express teamed up
with Foursquare to enable check-ins to deliver to American Express cardholders
valuable offers for spending a certain amount of money at retail outlets
.

Before we get
too excited about the Foursquare and American Express deal, it’s important to
put into plain language what it does and what it does not do.

It does not
change the American Express business model: helping people to buy things on
credit in the stores and venues of their choosing.

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What it does do
is provide a more efficient and immediate delivery of special discount codes
and couponing to more targeted list of users, who will act given that special
information and also delivering t to their friends.

According to
Luke Gebb, VP of Global Networking Marketing for American Express, this API
interaction with Foursquare is scalable and over time. “We are getting
reporting about what this online platform drove in the offline world. The
merchant will know exactly what kind of transactions and loyalty they have,”
says Gebb.

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It has always
been difficult to measure the impact that social media had on sales,
transactions and leads. It was always fuzzy math. Tapping into the Foursquare
API through a platform American Express has engineered means that there is now
a capability for measuring tangible ROI. No more fuzzy math. Says Gebb, “This capability
is competitively advantaged right now and is built to be partnered with
multiple platforms.” You can expect that this kind of marketing distribution
channel will be rapidly deployed for American Express users of both elite and
non-elite status. And the deals will increasingly become more granular, to the
person, hints Gebb.

“All of that value
is the type of thing we want to port on top of any platform where our card owners
are interacting,” says Gebb. “We are building towards a scenario in which the
platform Foursquare or Patch, what have you, can query the Amex API for a
customized offer as well. That may be an offer that be available to you and not
to me.”

Context: Living in the Age of
Influencers but Not Many Listen, Fewer Still Create Great Content

This makes American
Express and Foursquare some of the first movers in what will become the next
layer of the social web: boosting consumption through influencer channels in
the social grid.

Involver and
Facebook, and Klout are three more. I interviewed Klout’s CEO Joe Fernandez a
few weeks ago, and in this post he hinted that the company was still toying
around with how to blend the intuitive consumer-focused decision-making process
with the scientific data tracking needed to make pinpoint influence offers
.

Involver SVP of
Marketing Jascha Kaykas-Wolff tells me that up until the
announcement of an Involver-Klout partnership with Facebook
, there was no
way to engage with marketers individually but also at scale. The Facebook deal
makes it possible to practice the old school marketing of a small business
owner with millions of people at once–Granular Listening and Engagement at
Scale:

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We have not been able to connect with
the fans on Facebook in a way that allows us to treat them all differently. This
is the backdrop of our investment in a relationship with a company like Klout. The
missing ingredient in Facebook … on a meta-trend level is that Klout is driving a
passive score, an influence score, but also identifying lines of supposed
interest, or influence. You can layer that on top of Facebook and you get a
powerful combination of multiple relationships.”

Listening At Scale Promotes
Better Buying At Scale

Nothing has
changed, but many things have changed.

Before it was
about massive marketing, to catch a few fish. Now it’s about training all the
fish in the net to swim there happily, so that they can buy more.

Content is the
trick, but it is content at scale that shows both an understanding of the
market (based on good listening) and proactive engagement (based on being able
to create content that keeps people in their seats or drives them go shopping,
or to select something) says Kaykas-Wolff.

It’s through
valuable content that you find the influencers and what the influencers find
relevant, which they then pass on to their friends and followers in the social
media distribution channels.

While all agree
the influencers are important, some believe that there is too much credit given
to influencers-as-influential, like
AOL’s social media director Matthew Knell. He believes the influencer graph is
too top heavy and unwieldy
. At the CM Meetup in New York City a couple days
ago he mentioned this, and it was picked up by PRNewser:

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In agreement with AOL CEO Tim Armstrong,
Knell emphasized that social media in many ways is “distribution” for AOL’s
content, but that the brand also values engagement. “AOL measures success by
clicks, but they value engagement too. On Facebook we view clicks, comments,
and likes the same,” he said. “A lot of what we’ve been doing is trying to
figure out how to market our products via social media.”

This will be
something that needs careful attention. The barriers for media buying at a
hugely democratic level are very low now. There are wide channels, though they
are not necessarily deep.

It is not that
we need now to find the influencers. We need now to find the influencers who
are really good at content, who can speak at more than the just the high level,
to other influencers.

Companies are
now going to become better and faster at doing what they always do, but
marketing and content production are going to be the means by which they do
this. “It is incredibly hard to go out
and find an incredible editorial director,” says Kaykas-Wolff.

I now as a marketer have to focus on creating
content, and using these channels to distribute this content. It’s an evolution
of traditional marketing that is coming into play now. We are very much seeing that
people with similar interests and influence are going to be connected faster
and more efficiently, and marketers can do that without spending gobs of money.

In
other words, we are seeing the birth of “agile marketing,” a mash-up of a term
that first started in iterative software development. “In the next four or five
years, agile marketing is going to be a term that everyone talks about in the
marketing world,” says Kaykas-Wolff.

About the author

Douglas Crets is a Developer Evangelist and Editorial Lead at the Microsoft BizSpark program. He works to tell the story of thousands of startups hosted in the Azure cloud platform built by Microsoft.

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