Image credit: @naveen
Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp, brightkite, and Facebook Places are among some of the many geo social media platforms that are currently in our phones. (Well, maybe not yours, but mine). The “Check-In” phenomenon started just over a year ago and quickly caught on with early adapters and tech-junkies. The concept is quite simple; If you are a public place — bar, restaurant, gym — you “Check In”. Once you have checked in, your status is updated is shared with your “friends”, published to Twitter and or Facebook. In the case of Foursquare and Gowalla, there are game-like incentives where individuals can earn badges or get stamps in their “passports”. I remember trying to explain this concept to a few “non-developers” and a lot of the times the response was negative. There was a huge worry about being stalked. This worry manifested in a very popular website — PleaseRobMe.Com — that, in a very satirical way, makes fun of geo-applications in an attempt to raise awareness of the “Privacy” location:
The danger is publicly telling people where you are. This is because it leaves one place you’re definitely not… home. So here we are; on one end we’re leaving lights on when we’re going on a holiday, and on the other we’re telling everybody on the internet we’re not home. It gets even worse if you have “friends” who want to colonize your house. That means they have to enter your address, to tell everyone where they are. Your address.. on the internet.. Now you know what to do when people reach for their phone as soon as they enter your home. That’s right, slap them across the face. (PleaseRobMe.Com)
However, with time businesses started using these application and geo-friendly services to their advantage. Brands like, Starbucks, Gap, H&M, and Levi’s all embraced this social media application and offered customers who “Checked-In” to their stores/restaurants discounts on products and services. I won’t dwell into the use of foursquare for business purposes, but if you are interested in exploring this topic further check out this SlideShare presentation. Clearly, this is an exchange of power: Geo-Location app users get a few bucks off their purchases, while the company gets advertisement and exposure to the many followers and friends of those that check-in.
Currently, these services are growing at a rapid pace. Recently, Foursquare announced their new Universities and Colleges program. A partnership program with many post-secondary institutions around the world in order to help students, faculty members, and alumni stay connected and provide them with various information around campus (i.e. building hours, hot deals on campus, etc.).
There are still a lot of various opinions circulating privacy and the use of geo-location apps. Many argue that this is intrusive and a big piracy scam. I, however, have found it useful in a way that goes beyond connecting with my friends: I use these services to build my personal brand. Ichoose the places that I check-in to and push to Twitter, because these places say something about me: where I like to eat dinner, where I like to party, what events I attend. Similarly to the way we chose what brands to wear or which brands to use (when it comes to technology — go team iPhone!) I feel like this has really benefited me.
How many of you use geo-location apps? For what purposes?