Foursquare testing analytics dashboard for restaurants. Details appeared in The Next Web after surfacing in restaurant trade publication Nation’s Restaurant News. Next Web US editor Alex Wilhelm posted the news on Twitter.
If Twitter’s raison d’etre is “what are you doing?”, then location based social network apps like Gowalla and Foursquare refine that to “where are you doing it?” And as SXSWi fast approaches, people like Robert Scoble are dubbing this years’ web-geek spring break “the location based SXSW” Until recently, I’ve been reluctant to jump into these networks, letting others find utility before I take the plunge. When Twitter first began to percolate up in the public lexicon, many thought it was dumb, and back in 2006, I was a skeptic as well. I’m operating under the premise that if you’re reading this, you don’t doubt Twitter’s importance. But now, why check in throughout the day and share the geographic details of your travels with your various social networks? What precisely is the point? Still somewhat dubious myself, I polled my Twitter network. How important are place based networks like foursquare and gowalla to businesses and users? What are their impact on the social web? Are they moving the dial? My always savvy and diverse Twitter friends came up with some very interesting answers. What unfolds is a tale of risk, reward, and redemption.
Redemption – Opportunites for Consumers and Business with Brand Loyalty Programs.
Brand loyalty programs are a no-brainer for these mobile social network apps. Remember those cards you’d get from your favorite coffee shop? They’d punch or stamp the back, and after a certain number of visits you’d get a free coffee. Now with these apps, the business gets your repeat traffic, plus the added benefit of their brand being promoted and amplified to your networks. Win Win.
Web strategist Nate Riggs calls this a “low hanging fruit” strategy, emphasizing how this one just stares you in the face.
Serious potential falls into the lap of small businesses who are motivated (and brave enough) to begin experimenting with how they can utilize the application to tap into their mavens – the loyal customers who visit often and tell their real friends about the experience.
He outlines a strategy to drive customer retention, foot traffic, and return customers here – simple and useful.
Reward – You Have to Play to Win
The social gaming aspect of apps like foursquare, silly to me at first, is a narcotic to me now. I’m currently the mayor of nine venues on Foursquare – my jewel in the crown – my “mayor of the White House” crown. Now, while no executive powers confer with this mayorship, it sure is a nice little feather in the cap. Of course, now that it’s public that I’m the mayor, I’m sure to be ousted. Incidentally, I ousted @Daroff from the White House. He and I are now locked in mortal combat to be mayor of our local Starbucks. Game on!
But frankly, people lose interest in games. These platforms will only retain users if brands implement reward redemption programs for their mobile, networked consumers.
Risk – Are We Opting Out of Privacy and Safety?
In an interview with Gigaom’s Liz Gannes, Google’s engineering director David Glazer posits “Everything is better when it knows who I am,” – which immediately brings to mind this scene from Minority Report.
A potential, and even more nefarious risk of oversharing and geotagging is tech savvy, networked crooks. By now, most of us who use Foursquare and Gowalla have been hipped to the Rob Me Now web site.
Still, all of this is just an indicator of the explosive growth of the mobile web and apps that support it. While everybody was crowing about Facebook’s patent of their news feed, there was not nearly as much fanfare for Google’s patent on location based advertising. Gowalla and Foursquare are the two new shiny players in this space. Brightkite has been around for a while and is currently developing a universal, location based checkin app that will allow you to update all three platforms. Here’s how they shape up traffic-wise.
Ultimately, as with Twitter, success will be directly linked to mainstream adoption, which as in Twitter’s case required mainstream press, celebrity adoption and the like. We’ll see if this years SXSWi conference will give these apps a bump.
So is this the time for these location based social networks to take off? What do you think?