Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt, Scvngr; the list of geolocation based social networks is growing faster than a bodybuilder on steroids.
The idea behind all of these networks is essentially the same: go someplace, do something (a check-in) and get rewarded with a badge, bonus, discount or freebie for doing it. The various levels to be achieved are a big part of the social gaming, in and of itself despite the offerings. Titles like “Mayor” and “Duke” give a clear sense of accomplishment vs. friends and other “competitors.” But there are clear rewards for the companies savvy enough to engage in the game - or, clearly, they wouldn’t be quite as keen to play along..
As we can see with check-ins to Starbucks on Foursquare, getting half off on a drink or a free latte if the “mayor” arrives is a pretty strong inducement to keep the networks alive and kicking.
From the user standpoint, being awarded titles and points attracts fans and digital friends, and keeps things compelling and interesting. These Social Games are what twitter was for the web in 2009 - a way to keep in touch and to keep staying in touch. Only now that interaction takes place in the real world.
The interest in particular networks waxes and wanes like all things viral, but still developers are pumping out iPhone and Android mobile apps and interactive contests that turn users in to the content creators.
As marketers today we have to ask ourselves which battles we need to fight. With so many solutions, which strategy is going to make the most sense? But with the continued advancements in modern browsers like Firefox and Chrome in incorporating location aware services into the browsers themselves, the wealth of information available to an advertiser is only growing.
Users are leaving their computers only to use their GPS-enabled cell phone and get home to their high speed internet to watch internet TV, and all the while they are Tweeting, Facebooking and checking in to their favorite places, leaving digital breadcrumbs to follow. And those breadcrumbs can turn into a new loaf pretty quickly when marketers collect enough of them.
Knowing the location of a viewer gives us a whole other layer of information on which to present our desired messaging. Tapping into things like time of day, surrounding weather and recent browsing activity let us tailor the experience far beyond the cookie cutter box we once needed to live in.
Is your business or brand registered on these sites? If a user is near one of your locations is your daily specials or close-out sales going out as tweets embedded with a geolocation? If not, you may watch a string of breadcrumbs passing you by.