Going places… understanding Location-based Services and Geo-tagging in social media

 Social media continues to get bigger and new ways to use the medium are being introduced at a rapid rate.

 In this blog we are going to take a look at (and explain) social media location based services, geo-tagging and the potential these applications have for building brands.

Location-based Services (LBS)

A Location-based Service (LBS) is an information and entertainment application that can be accessed from a smartphone or mobile device. These services are growing in popularity with businesses increasingly using LBS to generate leads and enhance brand awareness.

Geo-tagging

Geo-tagging is a tool that utilises Global Positioning Systems (GPS) in smartphones to assist users to identify a particular place or location. It is used at a local and global level to enable promotion of real-time activities, merchants or locations through social media sites including Twitter and Facebook. Recently geo-tagging has been touted as the next big thing in the social media space.

 Who currently uses Geo-tagging? Anyone who has a smart phone with GPS or has access to the internet and associated social media sites can use geo-tagging. Consumers are using it to let friends know where they are and to get special offers and deals from retailers etc. It is used in gaming applications such as Foursquare, MyTown and Gowalla.

 Businesses are using geo-tagging to offer real-time  promotions or specials and to increase brand awareness.

 FOURSQUARE

What is it?

Foursquare is a location based social network application that incorporates gaming features.

Foursquare defines itself as ‘a mobile application that makes cities easier to use and more interesting to explore. It is a friend-finder, a social city guide and a game that challenges users to experience new things, and rewards them for doing so.’

Foursquare lets users “check in” to a place when they’re there, tell friends where they are and track the history of where they’ve been and who they’ve been there with.

In operation: March 11, 2009

Current number of consumer users: As of August 2010, Foursquare had 3million users worldwide.

Current number of registered users for business: Approximately 15,000

Quick breakdown: Foursquare is a game where users compete for points to win the status of being the ‘mayor’ of a location. It’s a good application for retail businesses as you can incorporate offers and help build customer loyalty

Cost: $0 to join or register a business. Cost of developing an application for a business varies

Best use by a brand we’ve seen so far: Starbucks Coffee

Our verdict: Claim your business name/place now, worth investigating if you have an extensive number of stores and targeting younger generation

FACEBOOK PLACES

What is it?

A location based application for Facebook users that allows users to check themselves or others in from a smartphone

In operation:  August, 2010

Current number of users: Approximately 30 percent of 500 million Facebook users but growing every day

Quick breakdown: Facebook Places allows users to check themselves into locations or places. It also allows friends to check other friends into locations as well. Easy to add locations and incorporate into Facebook business pages.

Cost: $0 for consumers. Businesses can register their location Facebook for free but you will need a business page first.

Best use of a brand we’ve seen: Too early to have any big players – but any business who is already heavily involved in Facebook and has multiple locations will be well placed to take advantage of Places as it grows.

Our verdict: Still in the early stages however, sure to grow with the popularity of Facebook. If businesses start offering incentives and offers to users to ‘check in’ (similar to the Foursquare model) it will gain popularity.

Places is also good for increasing brand awareness and connecting with Facebook users in real time. When people check into areas nearby to your business your listing comes up automatically.

GOWALLA

What is it?

Gowalla is a mobile and web service that gives people a new way to communicate and express themselves through the everyday places and extraordinary settings they enjoy.

Gowalla definition: ‘People can capture and share their spot in the world with friends and family, while discovering new places, events and trips as they go. Gowalla offers businesses, campaigns, and organisations the unique opportunity to reward loyalty, reach new consumers, and to create memorable experiences.’

In operation: March 13, 2009

Current number of users: 340,000

Quick breakdown: Gaming application (similiar to Foursquare) except it is built around obtaining stamps in a virtual passport – global. Users can accumulate points, rewards, discounts and badges. Businesses pay for a service to have their store listed or featured on Gowalla.

Cost: Free for consumers, businesses can get a featured listing from $155 US per day.

Best use of a brand we’ve seen: CNN Money for content distribution

Our verdict: Declining popularity compared to Foursquare, too niche market.