What We Can Learn from Pokémon GO

by | Oct 11, 2016 | EduSocial Blog | 1 comment

I would say you’ve been living under a rock the past couple months if you hadn’t heard of the Pokémon GO craze. But I can’t—practically every rock in America has been turned over in search of rare Pokémon!

Although that may seem hyperbolic, it certainly isn’t to say that Pokémon GO by developer Niantic has seen user numbers unlike any other mobile app, game or otherwise. The analysis group Sensor Tower estimated that it’s been downloaded more than 75 million times, and that was back in late July. Pokémon GO surpassed Tinder’s, Spotify’s, and even Twitter’s percentage of daily users, all within a week of its launch.

All fads must come to an end, however…right? As of this Tuesday, Pokémon GO has lost nearly 4 out of 5 of its paying users, but despite that, it continues to dominate the mobile gaming market in gross revenue. Talk about staying power!

There’s no doubt that Pokémon GO will leave an indelible mark on how we play online (if and when it dies out), but what does it say about how we interact online, or do business online? How can we draw upon trends like these to bolster the effectiveness of our own social media strategy?

Location, Location, Location

The internet can often seem like a sweeping, undefinable landscape of its own; anywhere and everywhere at once. It’s easy to forget that it’s ultimately made up of actual people in actual places. Nothing captures this better than media that blends the real world and the digital world like Pokémon GO.

Without going into a full summary of the game (here’s one for non-players), one of its main goals is to travel around in the real world with your digital Pokémon and interact with Pokéstops and Gyms which Niantic has placed on a virtual map of your GPS location. These could be as obvious as a statue or as innocuous as a park bench, but in busier areas of a town or city there are always plenty within walking distance.

pokemon-sign-business-300x283The free foot traffic these Pokéstops and Gyms started to generate was highly coveted by surrounding brick-and-mortar businesses. Within a week of the app’s launch, thousands of businesses were applying to become a Pokéstop or a Gym via Niantic and leveraged it on social media by creating witty posts with pictures of players, their Pokémon, and the themed promotions they used to catch attention. As you can expect, Pokémon GO’s financial impact on small businesses overall was clear and profound.

The reign of social media and internet culture hasn’t sheltered people from the outside world. On the contrary: it’s helping them interact and pay attention to the events going on in their community. If your small business has a physical location, remember that your customers online and your customers in-person aren’t two different worlds—one of the main goals of your social media activity should be to establish and support your local business and what’s happening there in the “real world”. Take pictures, shoot video, post about what’s going on in the area. Show your digital audience what they’re missing and give them a reason to stop by!

The Rise of Mobile


As digital devices get faster, stronger and smaller, we’ve begun to rely more on our smartphones than on our desktop and laptop computers. Soon enough, they may become the only piece of personal computing we need. By now, it’s expected that a business of any size have an online presence, not just on their own website but on every major social media platform. To access these on a mobile device is one thing, but it’s entirely another to design around it.

Consider how Pokémon GO was built to exercise almost every function of a today’s smartphone: it tracks your GPS location in real-time, counts the steps you take like a pedometer, uses your camera to superimpose graphics onto the world in front of you, manages digital transactions by securely accessing your banking information, and allows you to share what you’ve accomplished with your friends by seamlessly connecting to your social media profiles. All without closing the app even for a second!

In the past year, major companies have developed and released their own mobile apps that expedite certain processes the same capabilities (albeit not all at once). The Starbucks app’s mobile wallet allows customers to pay and order without even approaching the register and Target’s Cartwheel app lets customers scan product barcodes with their phone’s camera to find discounts and coupons automatically.

The need for complex mobile functions like these is probably beyond most small businesses, but it isn’t out of the question to consider how your digital strategy employs mobile technology to its full potential. There are plenty of apps that can certainly make managing your business easier, but streamlining your customer’s mobile experience will benefit both you and them.

Ask yourself: does your website look and function soundly on a smartphone? Is it easy to purchase your products, contact your office, and share your content via social media on a phone? In the near future, this may be your first impression on most customers.

Participate in the Conversation


It’s hard to think of a place Pokémon GO wasn’t brought up. Network news, American politics, the Olympics—you simply couldn’t hide from it. With all that coverage, why would anyone need to concern themselves with talking about it more?

That sentiment can be common enough among marketing managers for smaller businesses and organizations. I admit, it can be hard at first to find the connection between Pokémon and, say, tax accounting. However, taking the extra measure to creatively involve a popular trend (especially one as widespread as Pokémon GO) on social media can benefit any business more than initially expected.

For one, it helps capture the fact that your business is relevant, attentive, and responsive to the current culture. Potential customers may not know about you, but they’ll certainly know and relate to what you’re talking about when you put a spotlight on something so familiar to them. It’s also a chance to involve creativity and humor in your online presence; post something that stands out and makes people say “I didn’t expect that from you!”

The cornerstone of Pokémon GO’s success was the accessibility and relatability of its content, with avid players and the greater public alike. The more effectively you as a social media manager can channel that, the better you’ll be at adapting and appealing to today’s digital audience.

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Author Henry Donato

henry-donatoHenry Donato is a freelance copywriter, social media marketer and musician from Minneapolis, MN. He works with companies and agencies in such diverse industries as career coaching, food distribution, and eldercare.

1 Comment

  1. Matt Maglodi

    Pokémon GO really change the game of apps. The app was something new and fresh that we havent seen. Augmented Reality was out there, but Pokémon GO really became the leader of it. We (Online Advantages) are excited to see whats next!

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