Marketers love new toys. A few years back it was Second Life and now everybody is talking about location-based applications. Problem is, this talk is still limited to the marketing echo chamber. This week, Forrester released a study aka Reality Check about location-based mobile apps:
· 4% of U.S. online adults have ever used location-based mobile apps
· 1% update these services more than once a week
· 84& of respondents never heard of such apps
· Almost 80% of location-based service users are male (Giving credence to Kristi Vandenbosch's observation: "Guys like it because it taps the primal urge to pee on visited places."
· 70% of users have a college degree (or higher) and they are considered influential's
Forrester concluded that brands looking for male influencers should integrate these tools into their marketing mix. The rest? Wait and see.
Why people are not buying into check-ins
While marketers are salivating over the opportunities of location-based applications like Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt and MyTown, people haven't bought into that concept. The jury is still out if in 10 years all of us will check-in constantly or look back at the idea of sharing your location with the world and question: "People did what?"
Broadcasting your location has a definite creepiness factor. Besides the opportunities to stalk and commit other crimes with that information, people might just get tired being constantly tracked, recorded and their personal data monetized by third parties. Foursquare might also suffer from a Facebook backlash: Until a few months ago, most users believed to be the customers of Facebook. The latest privacy discussions made it very clear that users are content providers and advertisers the real customers. It didn't hurt Facebook because there are no real alternatives (yet) but it will hurt new platforms since people start to question the value proposition of new platforms: "I'm doing all the work, creating data sets for you and all I get in return is a badge and $1 off for my morning coffee?" Integration with loyalty cards might increase adoption rate but I'm skeptical. Loyalty cards are often seen as an inconvenience with a barcode slowing down checkout lines. Forcing people to check-in for discounts doesn't seem that appealing.
What brands should do
· Tread lightly. Don't turn Foursquare into another Second Life, building bombastic presences that nobody cares about, transferring the broadcast model from our real life into Second Life. Or Foursquare.
· Put the consumer in control. Trust remains the Number one concern for online users. They have to know and feel that they are in complete control and not get spammed or over-messaged by eager marketers
· Humanize the platform. Develop innovative programs that help people have real interactions with real human beings. As we friend, follow, and connect with more people online than ever before, our thirst for real world relationships and encounter is fueled. Once your brand becomes a trusted facilitator and matchmaker, the marketing takes care of itself. Granted, you could use location-based platforms to shill your coupons and special offers. I would argue, special offers should be at the bottom of your list. Connecting people with each other should be at the top.
I'm still very excited about the opportunity of a world where Social Media, mobility and location intersect. But I'm also very concerned that too many marketers can't help themselves being intrusive and annoying for short-term gains. Turning Foursquare into another Second Life.
Uwe Hook is the CEO and Co-Founder of BatesHook, Inc. (www.bateshook.com) and a veteran of the advertising and marketing industry with the goal of building connections between people and brands. Uwe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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