Coming into the New Year – and continuing through the SXSWi conference last month – location-based social networks and tools have been the hot topic amongst early adopters.
In addition to the early leaders Foursquare and Gowalla, fresh names such as Loopt and Brightkite have emerged to compete, along with the existing major platforms Twitter and Facebook adding or planning location-oriented updates. As much as “what are you doing?” was the key question a couple of years ago, “where are you doing it?” is the inquiry many new services are hoping we will be eager to answer in the coming months and years.
But is the focus on geolocation services simply the next fad to occupy the burgeoning ranks of social media enthusiasts? Though concerns around privacy and security have naturally arisen, there are various possibilities – particularly for small businesses – in being able to sync location details with existing and potential customers alike. Here we nod to some of the possibilities:
- Serendipity – How often have you found yourself in a new city…or even just a new part of your own town…wishing you knew a great place to eat or grab a good coffee? If a potential customer has the ability to log into their mobile device and find your business near their location, you’ll want to make sure you have a presence on these services and some great reviews to lure in new business.
- Save On the Go – Paper coupons can be a pain to obtain, plan, and hold onto until shopping day arrives. In much the same way as a hungry diner may decide where to eat based on location reviews, a shopper may simply tune into their local coupon offers right after they finish work. If that’s your store, 50 cents off a Coke may win you a full week’s shopping for a family.
- Flash Mobs – Granted, you don’t want the kind of flash mob that’s full of teens aggravating one another (or do you?!), but what about an unexpected party arriving for a beer and staying for the night? If small groups are checking into your bar and posting it to a service like Foursquare, as the service (or those like it) expand then there exists the possibility for this to become the next text invite. Except now every one of their friends is invited to join. And you want the invite to be to your location.
- Reward Loyalty– Sure, reward memberships are nothing new, but the ability to tie them into promotional e-mails, texts, and even hourly offer notices is a much more powerful tool than a cashier asking “do you have a club card?” Cards can be easily left at home or misplaced, but customers will generally carry their mobile devices to most locations. In a similar way to the potential of mobile coupons, if you can reward and update your customer regularly (and creatively) enough when they’re in your area, you have the opportunity to become their preferred vendor. Hey, maybe then they’ll even write a great review of you for the new ones…..
Of course, this only scratches the surface of some of the possibilities for location-based social marketing. Not all of these benefits will require giving away ones location to the public at large, which may aid in the uptake of certain new services. Others will require a careful sell to ensure users that their location information is as securely displayed as possible.
We will continue to examine the possibilities of these services as the trend develops into established businesses. If anything, we certainly believe that this one has legs and will spawn some exciting concepts that change the way we do business, offering great opportunities to early adopters.
As a business, how can you envisage using location-based social networking?
As a consumer, would you consider offering your location – whether privately or to the public – as a means to get better deals?
What are your general feelings towards giving away more and more of our personal data to publicly read online services?