RFID and Social Networks

Posted by Ken Lynch on Wed, Aug 18, 2010 @ 02:56 PM

RFID Brings the Digital ‘Like' to the Physical World

[Update on August 20]: Who, What, When, and Now...Where. Will Facebook Places extend the Digital Like?

Originally published on Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Like DislikeI expect this topic will result in equal amounts of “Likes” and “Dislikes”.  Regardless of your position, let us know what you think…

At Facebook’s f8 developer conference a couple of months ago, the company announced its testing of RFID for location-based services.  Upon registering, conference attendees were given RFID tags to swipe at check in stations located throughout the conference venue.  Called “Facebook Presence”, this solution provided a visualization of people’s ‘check-ins’ and enabled users to post presence-based information, tag photos, and link to other content simply by swiping their RFID card – removing the need to manually post updates via a computer or mobile device.  Apparently, Facebook has been using this solution internally for a very unique application.  Deployed at its headquarters “Keg Presence” provides a stream of information that lets users know what type of beer is being served from the company keg and when it is empty.  I’m a Facebook user and sometimes enjoy refreshments on Friday afternoons at the office, so I think I get it.

While Keg Presence may offer limited value outside of Facebook’s four walls, I’ve always thought that some day RFID and social networks would collide.  With RFID able to record many events in the physical world and social networks being used by so many individuals and businesses, the convergence of these technologies and platforms has to result in some practical applications, right?

Coca Cola + Facebook + RFID + Teens = Influence

Enter Coca Cola, Facebook, RFID, and a bunch of tech savvy teenagers.  This summer Facebook, the Coca-Cola village in Israel, and a couple of experiential marketing agencies (Promarket and Publicis E Dologic) teamed to bring the Facebook ‘Like’ out of the virtual world and into the physical world.  Coke organized a hangout called The Coca Cola Village and invited thousands of teens to attend.  It wasn’t an old fashioned direct mailer they used to attract participants though. They required participants to collect 10 Coke bottle caps each, gather eight friends who did the same, and then register through Facebook.

Upon arrival at the Coca Cola Village, party-goers were asked to configure an RFID-enabled wristband that would hold their Facebook login and password.  Attendees swiped their wristband when starting a variety of activities throughout the venue.   Each swipe updated a person’s Facebook status with what they were doing - automatically digitalizing, archiving, organizing, and sharing their physical experience with the virtual world.  It is reported that the three day event attracted over 650 teenagers a day, generated 35,000+ posts a day, totaling over 100,000 posts for the event. 

Social networks, permission marketing, crowdsourcing, and tribe building offer new ways and tools for companies to develop, market, and sell products.  From renowned entrepreneur and author Seth Godin in a post on his blog titled Tribe Management:

“It starts with permission, the understanding that the real asset most organizations can build isn't an amorphous brand but is in fact the privilege of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who want to get them.”

I’ve not seen any ROI data, but I have to think that some purchasing influence was achieved by having a tribe of consumers sharing, discussing and promoting the Coca Cola brand on a social media platform that serves over 500 million active users.

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Tags: RFID, Social Networks, Coca Cola, Facebook Places

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