Back in June 2007, branding guru Al Ries wrote an article on “Why the iPhone will fail.” He predicted that Apple’s attempts to converge multiple functions into a single device would result in major disappointment. ”Convergence devices,” he wrote, “for the most part, have been spectacular failures.”
Three years later, I think most would agree that, contrary to Ries’s prediction, today’s devices have become spectacular successes. With cameras, connectivity, GPS and social media tools built-in – or ready to download at the touch of a finger – these devices are transforming our communications, as well as the way people experience our communities. If you’re looking for evidence, just read Jordan Bateman’s story on page 11 of the June issue of Municipal World, about his community’s Olympic experience and the role social media played in engaging citizens and visitors to participate and promote the local event. (To see Jordan’s work, check out the YouTube channel set up for the Torch visit at www.youtube.com/townshiptorch, read Jordan’s blog at langleypolitics.com, and follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jordanbateman.)
Hastings County, Ontario, meanwhile, recently announced the first ever iPhone application in Canada designed for economic development. iHastings was launched as part of the county’s efforts to market itself to knowledge workers such as artisans, writers, and designers, and features social media connections through Facebook and Twitter, as well as photos, news, and video. The video channel promotes economic development initiatives underway in the county, including <investincheese.ca> and <startabrewery.com>.
On the tourism front, many locales are now finding ways to connect with and engage the tech-savvy traveller. California’s famed wine region, Sonoma County, for example, has an impressive iPhone application (iVisit Sonoma County) that links tourists to detailed information and maps (complete with GPS connection and directions) for events, accommodation, wine, breweries, dining, spas, golf, museums, and nightlife. (Just think about the mountain of tour books, maps, and brochures that you’d typically need to have this depth of information available.)
Commercial applications, too, are beginning to emerge. MyCityWay <www.MyCityWay.com> will soon be available in over 40 cities around the world, offering “more than 50 hyper-local apps rolled into each city-specific guide.” The application promises to provide access to transit schedules and maps, public rest-room and wifi locators, dining reviews and reservations, upcoming local event information and ticketing, city landmarks, tour bookings, nightlife discovery and rating tools, local news, apartment and job listings, classified ads, live traffic cameras, and more.
Whether it’s community engagement, economic development, or tourism, the twinned factors of convergence devices and social media are here to stay. If they’re not already, these powerful tools should become part of your strategy to engage, communicate, and connect with your community and the world around it.