Location-based check-ins are becoming the new “it” thing for a small subset of the population. Â The two biggest names (for now) Foursquare and Gowalla have seen some impressive growth over the last year. Â Foursquare has 4 million users up from merely 170,000 at the end of 2009 (source), and Gowalla has over 500,000 users (source). Â There is also the lesser known SCVNGR who is really beginning to gain momentum of it’s own, which as of November had half a million members, though it was not confirmed how many were active users (source). Â Each of these LBSN (Location Based Social Networks) has it’s own personality and options.
Foursquare, has the largest number of users, offers Specials for either checking in, or if you are Mayor of a spot.
Gowalla offers Pins, kind of like stamps in a passport; as well as Trips – a list of locations grouped together by either geographic or thematic locations.
SCVNGR offers Badges, Rewards, and Treks.
With Facebook’s newest release for Android they too have added the Places option. Â Places was available previously but only if a user logged into touch.facebook.com in the browser. Â It was not a part of the app, and was quite frankly entirely too involved to ever gain traction.Â When Facebook announced it’s mobile offering last week, although the speculation was the “Facebook Phone”, it turned out to be the launch of the Places API and single sign-on via Facebook. Â Places launched with these four partners; Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp and Booyah. Â The partners launching with Facebook sign-on are Zynga, Groupon, Loopt, scvngr, yelp, Flixster, and Booyah! Â There is a reason behind nearly all of the launch partners. Â The last part of the puzzle, why focus on locations so heavily? Â Facebook Deals.
By leveraging all the check-ins from Gowalla and Foursquare (it is a one way street, broadcasting to Facebook, but not back to them) Facebook has managed to compile a huge data set of information about local businesses and users habits, eventually targeting both you the consumer and businesses for advertising. Â By bringing Facebook Deals to the masses, companies will flock to Facebook. Â This is an incredible marketing opportunity, one that might possibly have a huge upside for retailers. Â The average user of facebook has 130 friends. Â When the users log into a business in Facebook Places and that business has a Deal, the deal is shared with all 130 of those friends. Â This is quick and easy advertising.
One aspect of Facebook Deals trumps all the other Location-based applications, the ability to send notification of current specials, with a full suite of tools for managing those deals. Â Instead of spending time actually searching for businesses that are offering a special, it can be sent to fans, customers, or even people walking past the business location. Â There will beÂ four different kinds of deals–Independent, Friend, Loyalty, and Charity. Â Each level has it’s own benefits and options. Check the link for more details.
Rumor: Twitter is going to push it’s Places option more aggressively.
Mashable reported last week that Twitter HQ had been “Claimed” by Twitter. Â This is the first time that a location has been claimed through Twitter Places. Â Geo-location has been available within twitter for a few months now, but never added any perceived benefits, so is not used that frequently by most. Â Could Twitter be trying to avoid being left out in the cold, while Facebook runs away with another massive audience? Â For the short term special – 30 minutes of free coffee’s at a Starbucks, Twitter seems to be more natural of a fit. Â 140 characters does not give a retail outlet much to work with, but the power of having the possibility to send out – Free Coffee from 3:00 to 4:15 here with a GPS location link, well that is a powerful tool.
Twitter’s places, perhaps D.O.A. What about youÂ Foursquare, Gowalla, and SCVNGR….what will happen to you? Â If the idea was to offer specials, rewards, or deals to your users – does it even make sense now? Â Personally I use all three services, but not for the specials they offer. Â I use Gowalla to help me keep track of the travels that I have taken. Foursquare, I use that because I have been for so long, and it is now habit. Â SCVNGR – I don’t use all that often but keep trying to, I like the treks section in SCVNGR. Â Honestly though, if I could use Facebook Places to log in to all the aforementioned services – with one sign-in….I would. Â The problem is, there are too many levels, steps, processes that must occur for my social check-ins to satisfy my desires. Â Unless a company comes along and includes all of the features I love with the ability to update amongst the social networks I love – Facebook Places will win. Â Deals or no deals.