Checking Out Why We Check-In

Location-based social networking has gotten a lot of buzz lately, particularly with the recent launch of Facebook Places. These services offer fun and entertainment to users. And with Foursquare alone reporting 2 million users, they offer a lot of potential for marketers.

I asked a few of our employees who are known to be heavy users why they check-in. The most popular response? “Deals and discounts.” Yes, it may be fun to be mayor, but as one person pointed out, it can be “too easy to cheat.” And Foursquare now even predicts when you will be mayor, so the element of surprise is fading. The Foursquare loyalty program we developed for F.Y.E customers addresses all of this and goes beyond just catering to mayors. You can get discounts just for checking-in, no mayorship required. And with the consumer proliferation of smart-phones nowadays, the fit was perfect.

There also are ways to keep interest and engagement beyond the retail coup you could get for checking-in. Some brands are really finding creative ways to do so. Zagat is using Foursquare to leave tips for foodies all over the U.S. And if you’re inclined, you can use Foursquare thru MTV to find out where the kids from The Jersey Shore like to hang out (if only so you can avoid those places). You can even “check-in to history” with Foursquare and the History Channel.

Gowalla recently launched Highlights, where you can “tell the world about your favorite places.” It’s a little like those polls on Facebook where you can tell people about your favorite albums, the first person you kissed, favorite childhood toy, etc. Highlights asks users to share places like the best spot for live music, where you get your caffeine fix, where you like to go on date night, even where you proposed. From basic recommendations to warm fuzzies, Highlights looks to compile them.

And what about deals and discounts? Yes, being mayor or collecting badges may be fun, but saving money will always be a perk. Maybe the best way to keep these location-based services running is to combine the economic incentive with tips, suggestions – even the occasional warm fuzzy.