Location-based social networking draws upon the power of GPS to enable users to share their lo-cation through their portable devices. Typically, communications stem from a mobile email or text message. Quite frequently, people use these tools to enhance their social lives, as they can not only read about new places to go, but also track where their friends are at any given time. In fact, many people use the functionality of location based social media to spontaneously get together with friends and busi-ness colleagues.
The fast growth of web phones users has expe-dited the growth of location based social media. People who have purchased these gadgets want to take full advantage mobile phone apps that will as-sist them with their day-to-day life. People with web phones, of course, want information when they are in an unfamiliar location. Whether they seek the find the nearest coffee shop to a given location, or reviews of a restaurant, details “on the go” are al-ways quite valuable. There is a clear power and allure to relevant, real-time information.
Another reason people have gravitated to these location-based social media tools is that they enable them to combine the real and virtual worlds. For example, Foursquare enables people to compete in a competition to win “badges” at a favorite club or restaurant. When you check into a location multiple times you can earn a badge or other recognition. Certain users can also earn the title of mayor. Many have gravitated to this network because they enjoy the added benefit of playing this game that is unique to Foursquare. Instead of posting something about what they did last night, they now have the opportunity to post about what they are doing right now – and see what others are doing in the same location.
Foursquare also allows users to add “tips” to various locations including recommendations or even random thoughts. When you are near a Fours-quare location, you can read other people’s tips. This advice allows people to find new establish-ments that match their interests. Of the current, dif-ferent location based social media tools; Foursquare is among the most popular. In fact, according to Inc. magazine article published July 8, 2010, Fours-quare is adding 15,000 new users every day.
However, Foursquare is not without its compe-tition, take Whrrl, for example. Whrrl is similar to Foursquare in that it offers reviews of various busi-nesses including restaurants, stores, coffee shops etc. Whrrl users can check out these reviews via their web phones. This content is very similar to what is typically seen on Yelp, except all of the re-levant details are displayed on Google maps for easy navigation. Thus, Whrrl allows users to get details about different businesses simply by clicking on them.
Whrrl differentiates itself from Foursquare, however, by allowing users to add photos as well as text with notes. This functionality gives the user the ability to tell stories. Whrrl also offers users degree of control over their privacy, as Whrrl lets users dif-ferentiate between friends and “trusted” friends. Another interesting aspect about Whrrl is that you earn points and rewards when other people save and complete your recommendations.
GPS is a Big Marketing Idea
Loopt is another application, which actually turns your mobile device into a compass. You can see the locations where your friends have visited, along with their comments and suggestions. Loopt also can be set to alert you when your friends are near your location. Loopt is a bit different from the other tools in that it offers live tracking, so users don’t have to constantly check in and announce their location. Users also have a close degree of control over how much information they want to make public.
Not surprisingly, businesses have found that they can learn a great deal about customers and their buying habits from location based social media. As a result, experts believe that these location tools will perhaps be even more valuable to businesses than regular social networking. Additionally, when people share where they are, they are publicly divulging details about products and services that they use. This gives businesses a potentially massive amount of viral exposure.
Many of these location-based social media networks are offering special programs to business-es. For example, businesses can arrange a formal partnership to attract new customers. Once you have determined who is frequenting your establish-ment regularly, you can use these tools to offer re-wards and discounts as a further incentive to good customers.
Inc Magazine recently addressed the issue of how businesses can get involved with these social media tools in an article entitled “How to Use Loca-tion-Based Social Networks for Your Business.” First of all, they suggest that companies should fol-low the lead of big brands that are spending money researching what will be hot. For example, Star-bucks was an early adopter of Foursquare. If your company notices big businesses following a certain trend when it comes to location based social media, you should stand up and pay attention.
The Inc Magazine article also points out how business owners can directly get involved in their marketing via location based social media. Author Lou Dubois writes, “Start using the tools as an indi-vidual, monitor what customers and users are saying about your business. Then, and only then, should you start using the services for your business, as you'll have a much clearer understanding of what you need.”
When business owners read comments and tips about their establishments, it can give them unique insights into how to provide more of what custom-ers want. Further, they can respond to questions or complaints on the network, and customers will like-ly appreciate the interaction. Foursquare actually goes so far as to offer a special analytics service that allows companies to see the demographics of whom is checking in to their establishments. Obviously, this is a level of personal detail about customers that is highly sought after by businesses.
According to Rob Reed, an industry blogger and founder of MomentFeed.com, a company that helps companies use location-based services for marketing, is quoted as stating, "Location is grow-ing so much faster than social media ever did. One year from now, we'll see location jump the equiva-lent of three years social media time." In short, the growth for location based social media is simply dramatic. Clearly, this is just the beginning for lo-cation based social media, and odds are this growth is only likely to continue.
On June 29, 2010, the New York Times pub-lished an article called “Foursquare Raises $20 Mil-lion in Venture Capital.” The article explains exactly how fast Foursquare has been expanding its out-reach to businesses, which now include Starbucks, Zagats, and The New York Times including over 10,000 others. The article goes on to explain, “Hy-per-local is where the next big wave of mobile ad-vertising opportunity is, because it ties into that be-lief that location is going to be a big enabler for marketers to more deeply engage with their custom-ers.” The idea behind hyper-local is that people will become more and more involved in reporting their ideas by writing tips and content and, in the process, they will reveal a well of detail regarding their buying habits and buying patterns.
Clearly, the tremendous investments that are currently being made as well as the huge amount of interest in location based social media means that these applications are here to stay. As more and more users adapt web phones, use of these tools will only continue to grow. With this popularity curve, there also is a unique opportunity for companies to promote their businesses and also learn valuable information about their clientele. Be sure to read the more detailed profile of Foursquare.