One of the biggest buzzwords in marketing and IT these days is "SoLoMo." It sounds a bit like nonsense, but it's actually a type of combined abbreviation called a portmanteau, a fancy French term for a word created by mashing a few others together. Apparently, techies love making these up; SoLoMo is just one of many such made-up words, and it represents a combination of:

  • Social
  • Local
  • Mobile
Simple, right?

At its core, SoLoMo represents the convergence of social, mobile and local technology, often to enhance search, thus making searches more dynamic and more responsive. In the "old world" of search, a given keyword returned nearly the same results regardless of demographics like location. Now, with mobile devices using GIS/GPS data, more searches are turning out different results based on where the searcher is located. Which kind of makes sense. After all, if you're searching for a Mexican restaurant from New York City, it would be nice if the search engine kept your location in mind and delivered results in your area, rather than, say, in Mexico.

Although this kind of "dynamic search" represents the gist of what SoLoMo is about, there’s still a lot of back and forth about how the phenomenon is likely to play out in today’s tech world. Some of the debate here involves ideas about how the three separate parts of SoLoMo - social, local and mobile - connect to each other, or how businesses will integrate these approaches.

The Social in SoLoMo

Social media is hardly new at this point - even most businesses are now using it. Facebook, for example, offers not only the opportunity to form a simple business profile page, but also to use something called Facebook Open Graph to actually integrate a business site into Facebook’s platform.

And Facebook isn't the only platform making inroads with businesses. Google+ is a relative latecomer, but it's taking the lead in SoLoMo and aiming to answer to a broad-based, global community of users. A January 2012 story from OurSocialTimes suggests that G+ has been building its local business profiles in order to target a SoLoMo ramp-up. Writer Kelvin Newman also suggests that data from Google Maps might be an advantage for Google in terms of helping it develop search results that are even more relevant. (Learn more about networking in a digital world in Social Media: How to Do It Right.)

The Local in SoLoMo

As mentioned above, big tech companies are integrating more localization into their platforms. Individual businesses can also offer more local data, or craft more local pitches that will show up in social-connected or standalone marketing efforts. In many cases, a local approach offers a lot more than just a better customer outreach model. For example, a Kansas City-based startup is using a SoLoMo approach to sourcing orders for local meat sellers, helping to limit waste in the industry and promote better access to healthier, less processed foods for customers.

The Mobile in SoLoMo

As we’ve reported before, much of the commerce that takes place today is moving to digital, while work moves from static work stations like desktop and laptop computers to smartphones and other mobile devices. This is the third pillar of SoLoMo, which is driven by the hardware exodus currently taking place. What that exodus means is that many things that were once analog must also become digital as a result. Mobile coupons, for example, are one way to connect with customers and create a more sustainable and efficient business model built on a mobile platform.

SoLoMo and the Principle of Speed

One of the interesting elements of SoLoMo is that along with social, local and mobile factors, there is a fourth element that some marketing experts are applying to this kind of innovative search. As in regular physics, time could be considered a crucial "fourth dimension" in SoLoMo. In an article published in Adweek in February 2013, writer Brian Stoller contends that in order to truly use the power of SoLoMo, marketing professionals need to work on a principle of timely adaptation. Or, to put it in the metaphor Stoller uses so well, marketers should take a "newsroom approach" to delivering advertisements that are fresh, crisp and based on very recent events or user trends.

SoLoMo and the Faceless Business

Another big question for some company executives is how businesses use concepts like SoLoMo and other location-based social tools when the businesses in question may not have actual street addresses linked to physical retail stores. The problem here is how can customers locate a business that is, for all intents and purposes, everywhere?

In most cases, applying the power of SoLoMo to a business that is not location based involves expanding the definition of location and using creative ways to build location into product marketing, as this November 2012 piece from Website Magazine so clearly explains. Possible solutions include using public events or trade shows and conferences as up-to-the-minute business locations, and otherwise creating virtual or remote campaigns where users can feel connected to a central physical space, wherever they may happen to be. The article uses the example of creating a business centered game space strategically located around a target audience, but that allows most users to connect through mobile devices.

As with many other kinds of technological advance, SoLoMo can actually motivate the top brass at an enterprise to come up with new ways to use what’s available to them, and to adapt their operations to a model that’s both interactive and, in many cases, invented. A lot of today's business, from e-commerce to mobile marketing, happens "in the cloud," but it’s still important for a business to maintain a real presence among consumers. As SoLoMo-based ideas start to show up on our tablets and phones, therefore, it's up to businesses to combine new technology with good, old creative thinking to make it work.