Geolocation: a chance for everyone's business
Whether you own a café, manage different sales points, or just want to be part of the game: why and how to be on geolocation social networks.
What's "geolocation" and how does it works?
Geolocation is a very simple concept: by means of an app in his/her smartphone, every user can let others know where he/she is. All with a simple touch on a screen.
Let's pretend you're in a shop, or nearby: you run the app on your smartphone, do the "check-in" there, and, according to the platform you're using:
- score points, gain a badge or a title ('game' aspect)
- receive a special discount from the owner/manager ('business' aspect)
- let other people know you're there and leave a comment about the place, a review of the shop, or some advices about what to buy and what not to ('social' aspect)
Foursquare, Facebook Places, Google Hotpot
Foursquare features all the aspects mentioned above: when you do your check-ins you score some point (which gets you in competition with your friend), you can gain badges (you want to collect them all, right?), you can become 'mayor' of a place (i.e. the one who has been there the most), leave comments, let your friends know where you are (on Facebook and Twitter, too), get a special discount. Foursquare is a mix of a social network and a geolocated game; it has considerably grown up during 2010 and features now over 6 millions users.
Facebook also got into the game with Places, a more business-oriented service than Foursquare: after you register to Places you can tell your friend where you are and capitalize potential discounts or special offers by checking-in, all this thanks to the newborn Facebook Deals service. Facebook is a very sturdy social network, able to gather more than 500 millions people from all over the world, which may hint Places will become quite important in the near future.
Google, the Internet giant, couldn't miss the chance, so it launched its Places service, too. It works together with Google Hotpot, and it allows users to publish comments and reviews about places while still there, a bar for instance. Now, every time you google that bar, you'll also view such information in its 'Place page'.
2011, the Year of Geolocation
Smartphones like iPhone, BalckBerry and Android-based devices have seriously ruled the market in the last months, being equipped with GPS and sold with Internet traffic included. In 2011 the number of sold smartphones and tablets has simply rocketed: iPad and the upcoming iPad2, RIM's Playbook will also be available soon, as well as many other devices running Android Honeycomb.
This scenario will probably allow geolocating services to become a much more important aspect in the web mobile market.
You're already geolocated, (maybe) you just don't know it.
When using Foursquare, users look for the bar, shop, or public place they're at. If they can't find it, they just create a new venue, do the check-in, and start talking about it with other users. Something very similar happens with Facebook Place, even if with different dynamics and goals. It's just a matter of time: whether you like it or not, your business will be soon geolocated by users - or maybe it already is.
You can now choose not to get involved in all this and let it up to users, or you can take matters into your own hands and take advantage of this great opportunity you have to increase your business.
Why should I take care of my presence on geolocation social networks?
Social media marketing is a great chance for businesses to learn what users say about them and to interact with them. Now geolocation social networks take this chance even further: businesses can now interact with users that actually enter their shops and similar, then able to better understand their needs.
If your business is already geolocated you can claim it back and become its manager. If it isn't, just create a new venue. You can now read what your customers think about you and your business, answer them, and make some special offers: a discount to your 'mayor' (Foursquare); a 'deal', that is a special offer to a single user or a group of them (Facebook). Rumors say Google will soon launch the possibility to make offers on Google Places.
You don't have sales points? It can be a good chance for you, too!
Geolocation-based service are a great opportunity to enhance your business if you own one or more sales points, of course. Nevertheless, not every brand has sales points, because they just don't need them for their business: just think about fashion brands, newspapers, technology-related brands, radio and TV stations, and so on. Anyway, even these such brands can take advantage of geolocation for their business! On Foursquare they can create a brand page, let users 'follow' them (Twitter-style), and start writing advices and reviews about other places.
Zagat is a very good example indeed. A very well-known American magazine reviewing restaurants and hotels, Zagat created its official page on Foursquare where to publish comments and advices on hotels and restaurants visited all over the United States.
What about you? What's your experience with geosocial networking?