Harnessing the power of location-based social media marketing: An interview with Ground Signal CEO Tony Longo

August 5, 2015

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The world of marketing has dramatically changed. Years ago, but not so far in the past, YOU controlled what was said about your company. You pushed out marketing material and the world listened – or ignored you. Sure, customers may have grumbled, but only their friends in the same room could hear. Now, marketing conversations are in the hands of the consumer. They’ll be your best sales team or your worst nightmare as they post their immediate thoughts with impunity on every social media outlet – reaching thousands, maybe millions of people around the globe, if it goes viral. Consumers are defining your brand, like it or not. So naturally, savvy marketers have been learning to finesse the power of social media.

With ubiquitous mobile devices, the power of location-based marketing is growing as consumers post and comment. Companies are using location information about where their customers live, buy or interact with the company’s brand to make decisions about everything from store locations to the how they’ll provide their services.

Until recently, seeing social media and location together has been a challenge. Enter Ground Signal, the latest brainchild of Tony Longo and Dan Adams, co-founders of Ground Signal and its parent company, CO Everywhere.

“Ground Signal is a location-based audience platform. It is our B2B enterprise product that gives businesses the power to understand and reach local audiences and individual influencers, anywhere in the world. CO Everywhere is the parent company and R&D lab where the team focuses on the most advanced innovation around location-based technologies. Ground Signal was born out of this very research when we discovered more than 90 percent of social media posted at a brand’s location did not include the brand’s name as either a keyword, hashtag or @mention, rendering the posts undiscoverable to the brand. Ground Signal solves this problem, allowing the brand to discover and engage with real people on location, in real time,” CEO Tony Longo explained.

What does that mean for you? It means, thanks to Ground Signal, you now have the power to listen in on your critics and fans in a specific location, and tailor your message specifically to the consumers in that area, in real time. Perhaps more importantly, it also gives you the power to reach out to the people that are posting the most often, with the largest followings in that area — people that are influencing others — and enlist their support.

Basically, location-based marketing just got a whole lot easier and more effective. Major corporations agree. Since their soft launch of Ground Signal just 90 days ago, they’ve already landed 30 customers including some major brands like Coca-Cola, Marriott, Loews Hotel, Barbados Tourism and Pernod-Ricard directly and in conjunction with agencies, according to Longo.

Intrigued and eager to know more, I seized the opportunity to ask Mr. Longo a few questions, and he was gracious enough to agree to share his answers with our readers.

Q:  Tell us more about your big vision for Ground Signal and for social media marketing in general. What is the mission you are accomplishing with Ground Signal’s services?

 A: We believe that "location" is a major unsolved piece of the marketing technology stack. There have been some innovative attempts in the past, but with little success, and we believe location-based marketing and analytics is the next tool in a CMO's toolkit. With mobile and social at scale and accessible data from partners readily available, tools like Ground Signal have proven to generate both creative and valuable B2B and B2B2C marketing opportunities. We are currently partnering with brands in several verticals including Hospitality, Retail, Food & Beverage, as well as working with cutting edge agencies focused around experiential events and influencer marketing.

For example, Marriott Hotels is an enormous corporate entity comprised of main brands, sub-brands, and real estate all over the world. By using our platform, they can virtually draw the precise location of any of their properties and listen to the on-site social media produced in real-time. By investing in listening to their customers and engaging with influencers, Marriott can now see the huge void of content that they previously couldn’t see by using Ground Signal. Subsequently, they can communicate in a way that is taking customer service and real time marketing to the next level. 

Q:  I love that a marketer can connect directly with local influencers, but I'm wondering how many marketers are sophisticated enough in their communications to do that well. What tips do you have for marketers trying to connect with influencers? Are there resources available through your company to teach social media newbies any best practices? 

A: Great question, and our thought exactly three months ago, but we continue to be proved wrong. I wouldn't be lying if I said that Influencer marketing is about to or already has become mainstream. I think the real question is, what is an influencer?  Recently, we have been fortunate enough to have Gary Vaynerchuk as an investor in our company. For those who may be unfamiliar with Gary, he is a seasoned venture capitalist and CEO of Vayner Media and has been preaching the successes of the "micro-influencer" all year. These are not the celebrities like Kanye West, who have millions of followers, but the true value is in the engagement with real people and their brands.

As for connecting with an influencer, there is no special sauce here. Honesty, kindness, and authenticity go miles and we tell all of our clients to reach out and engage these people.

Being a new company, with a new product, we work very closely with all of our clients. As for resources, it's as good as it gets, the guys creating the product are actively involved working with the clients. While this probably won't last forever, we will build out a thorough support platform filled with use cases, wins, failures, techniques and tool tips to maximize ROI.

Q: That personal touch is evident even on your website, where the whole team is pictured. And I loved that Jean "has your back" for customer service inquiries. Is customer service part of your differentiator? And how large is your company? Are you looking to grow and expand, or is small and agile part of your business model?

A: Jean is a one-of-a-kind individual. He is a guy who worked with us as an intern for almost two years, all the way through his college graduation and is a now full-time employee helping engage and partner with our clients. He is passionate, and is helping us and our clients learn every day to get the most out of the platform and add real value to them.  He is a very good listener and problem solver. A big part of our culture is to always be curious and always be innovating. We are small and growing nationally with offices in Boston, New York and San Francisco. We are always looking for great talent. 

Q:  What do you think is the key differentiator between your company and other social media marketing firms? Why should our readers want to know you, and sign up for your services?

A: Well, first of all, we don't consider ourselves a social media marketing firm. We are a SaaS Platform geared to marketers allowing them to leverage location-based social data. Our platform helps brands engage with customers on a personalized level, understand influencers and discover people in places all over the world with precision. We are one of the only platforms in the market that can actually discover social media posts by search a specific location, not by keyword or @mention as other platforms do. As for audience, we are focused less on the content and much more on the person who is posting the content and what content is trending. Ground Signal allows brands to discover who their audiences are, what they like and dislike and how they can be activated to create a win for them and a win for the brand.  

Q: I noticed that Ground Signal's site specifically mentions partnering with Twitter and Instagram. Why did you choose those companies? What is your relationship with Facebook, LinkedIn, etc? Do you have plans to expand to include those resources as well?

A: We have partnered with many of the social players, both big and small and from all parts of the globe.  Inclusive of licensing partnerships, we have aggregated social data from every major source on the web. Twitter and Instagram add a tremendous amount of value to the platform because of their inherent format. For example, these partnerships are primarily open, public facing platforms that produce an enormous about of signal globally and on-location via the users mobile phones. Other platforms such as LinkedIn produce much more non-location specific content, or Facebook, where most of the content is produced privately in a friends-only structure, making the data unusable for the purposes of a location-based intelligence tool. We are constant evaluating and testing new sources on our own and on behalf of clients, and plan to always be bringing new location-based public data into the platform every quarter. 

Q: Finally, tell us a bit about yourself, if you will - a bit about the man behind the company. What motivates you? What do you do for fun? Does any of that relate back to how you work or are developing your company, or to your vision and mission for the company? 

A: Fun. (joking) A little about me, let's see. I live with my wife Courtney in the North End / Waterfront neighborhood in downtown Boston. We both love to travel, although the only travel I am seeing these days is business travel. Passions (obsessions) include motorcycles, art and anything creative. And I love to build things...anything. 

Very selfishly, when we were building out the company, I really focused on bringing on the best and brightest. Every free second I get, I try to jump in on product or design sessions. We even used to run this program at night called Black Ops where we engaged other creative talent (designers, artists, product engineers) from around Boston to get together in the ultimate creative brainstorm. It's definitely an addiction. So yes, I think a lot of who I am and what I like to do personally does point back to what I am doing professionally. I feel lucky that it has worked out this way and with good planning I’ll be able to do this for a long time. 


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