Geo-based Social Media: Rad or fad?
The idea is compelling: Incorporate the mobile phone’s GPS capabilities into social networking, marketing and gaming.
Offer points or badges or mayorships to users when they frequent shops and restaurants. Provide on-the-spot coupons and specials. Have people “check in” when they arrive at the airport in a new city or at a conference. Look up on the app if a friend is nearby and is available for drinks.
Let folks know where you are – and know where your friends are.
Foursquare has a relationship with the Wall Street Journal in New York City.
Foursquare seems to be the perceived leader, with its gaming approach. It recently received notoriety because of its affiliation with the Wall Street Journal when the newspaper alerted “members” in Times Square of the May 1 terrorist threat as the situation unfolded.
But there are others, many others: Aka-Aki, Belysio, Bliin, Blumapia, Blummi, Brightkite, Buddy Beacon, Buddycloud, BuddyMob, BuddyWay, buzzd, Carticipate, Centrl, CitySense, ComeTogethr, Dodgeball, Dopplr, Duzine, EagleTweet, FindbyClick, FindMe, Flaik,Footprint History, Foyaje, Fraced, Friend Mapper, Friends around me, Friends on Fire, GeoMe, GeoSpot, GeoUpdater, Glympse, Google Latitude, gpsME, Grindr, Groovr, GyPSii,ICloseby, iPling, Ipoki, IRL, Jentro, Junaio, LightPole, Limbo, Locaccino, Locatik, Locatrix, Locr, Locle, Loki, MapMe, Map My Tracks, Match2Blue,MeetMoi, Meet Now Live, Microsoft Vine, Mizoon, Mobilaris, MobiLuck, Mologogo, Moximiti, My Adventures, MyGeoDiary, MyGeolog, Myrimis, myWingman, NAV2US, Now Here, Nulaz, Ovalpath, Plazes, Pocket Life, Pownce, Quiro, Qlique, Rally Up, Rummble, Shizzow, Skobbler, Skout, Sniff, Snikkr, Socialight, Sparrow, Spot Adventures, SpotJots, Stalqer, The Grid, Toai, Tonchidot, Toodalu, Tooio, TownKing TownQueen, Trackut, Trapster, Tripit, Troovy, Tweetsii, Twibble, Twinkle,Twittelator, Unype, VicinityMatch, Waze, weNear, Whereis Everyone , WhereYouGonnaBe, Whrrl, Zhiing, Zintin (Thanks http://bdnooz.com)
A screen shot of Google Latitude
For the user, there is the fun of another “connection,” the element of playing a game for points, and the potential for serendipity as one wanders through a city or neighborhood. They may also get a coupon for a free latte or an e-coupon.
If combined with user reviews, the application can help individuals make more informed decisions on the spot.
“Checking in” can also be an extension of Twitter and Facebook, answering “Where you at?”
To marketers, knowing customers’ preferences, patterns and enthusiasm can make or break a campaign.
With a small “carrot” – a symbolic badge, a 10-percent coupon or frequent-customer discounts – a business can accumulate an exponential amount of data on its clientele. It can then exploit that data through its own marketing or, to conspiracy theorists, re-sell it to one or two or 100 firms.
In any event, if the objective is to “know your customer,” geo-based marketing can provide instant information.
News organizations are also getting involved. Many are looking for ways to expand their reach, interact with sources and provide targeted news.
However, does this element of social media have legs?
Informal conversations with social media users (but who would not consider themselves “enthusiasts”) revealed skepticism about “publicizing” their GPS whereabouts.
The under-25 demographic looks at the idea as social networking run amok. Not really fans of Twitter, they see geo-based apps like these as an attempt by someone who is trying too hard. The gaming comes across as shallow and a distraction.
As for an “older” demographic – say, women in the 30s or 40s – one word immediately came to mind: “Stalker.”
This can’t be overstated. These women did not like the idea of someone knowing where they were, where they are or where they are going. (“Creep Central,” one could say.)
The issue of security also comes up with where users aren’t.
It doesn’t seem unthinkable for someone to target a home for burglary knowing that the owner is across town or in another city.
Second, the sample also pointed out that, if they want to have drinks with someone, they will call that person. “Checking in” and showing up in a bar could lead to meet-ups with people that the individuals might not want to see that night.
The potential savings through coupons or specials is a plus, but these individuals already know what the specials are for specific days or nights and thus they perhaps hold less appeal.
Yes, users can limit their profiles, turn on or turn off the app, pick their friends and share only information they choose.
But that could require a lot more thinking than users care to exert – and could make geo-based programs more of a fad than the next social-media “must.”