Location-based services have become one of the hottest and fastest growing sectors of social media. Most of you have likely heard of a few of the popular location-based services such as Foursquare, Gowalla and Yelp. Even Facebook entered the location game by launching its Places product, and Google recently introduced HotPot, a recommendation engine for places and began testing it in Portland. And if you are socially active on the digital space, chances are that you have installed it on your phone or come across the posts from your friends or people you follow.
1. As the relevance of real-time and location-based information from such services increase, they’ll become more valuable and these platforms will attract more users. In addition to providing useful information about venues and customer reviews through updates via the service, many of these apps have a social-gaming component to increase user engagement, where rewards are doled out for the user. Often these are as simple as acknowledging your location, also known as a "check-in" or with virtual rewards like a picture or a badge for the user’s profile.
2. Connecting with friends, business associates and acquaintances is a great feature of these services, as information about their location could be shared on their social graph. Discovering new places to hang around or visit is another feature of these services. Armed with a review or images about the place, it is easier for a user to decide on their choice of a location for their party or travel.
“This is a completely new chapter when it comes to social networking per se. I believe that this is the perfect way where the so-called virtual life connects with the real life. Till now we were speaking virtual and with geo-social services picking up, clients should really take it seriously. With these geo-social services, brands can now get into direct sales promotions on the social media as well since they can promote a particular retail store and engage consumers in a timely manner,” informed Abhishake Das, creative director, Tribal DDB.
3. Brands are looking at increasing user-engagement across mediums and location-based services aid in identifying the user’s location in real-time, thus helping a marketer in targeting his communications. "In India, the digital space is obviously growing very fast with cheaper devices coming to the market. I am not saying that the situation of very high penetration of geo-social media services is now, but it is starting to be. Smartphones with location-based apps along with services like Facebook Places are a holy-grail for marketers to send timely communications to their consumers about where to get the product and even give a discount to them on the spot. The space is still in its infancy, but certainly services like Foursquare is catching on in the Indian market and some marketers are already experimenting with it," explained Graham Kelly, executive creative director, Ogilvy One.
“Since users will be going to a physical location to redeem their discounts or points at a store, it could also be referred as an on-ground activation. Going forward, I don’t think we can define these as a particular medium only, it will encompass all,” he added.
4. The service has its share of criticisms as well, with privacy being one of the primary concerns. Privacy has been an issue that has confronted the digital space for quite some time now.
Though Facebook has continued to increase its memberships despite the criticisms, it is a cause of concern that developers need to look at very closely.
Despite the increasing number of users of the service, even a few million users translate into only a very small number for an average locality.
While the service has its benefits due to the viral nature, it is also a cause of concern for communication consultants as the viral effect also carries the negative opinions or feedbacks about a place or a product or a service. Only time will tell how consumers and brands adapt these services and maximise benefits for all. Thankfully, with the way digital media has been evolving, we won’t have to wait for too long to realise them.
What it means for...
- Real-time and timely targeting of consumers
- Profile users based on regular location "check-ins"
- Promotions at particular locations
- Consumer reviews and images
- Connecting and socialising based on venue preferences
- Rewards and recognitions in the social web