I wrote about Foursquare recently, and thought it would be interesting to follow up, given the fact that the location-based service recently hit the 2 million users mark. So what’s happened since then in the location-based services world? Some key happenings:
- Gowalla is lagging way behind Foursquare as far as users are concerned, and even advertising on billboards doesn’t really help.
- Nevertheless, Gowalla plods on (as they must), and focuses on beauty with the launch of the iPhone 4. Utility will always trump beauty in my opinion, though obviously both together is ideal.
- Whole Foods agrees to stick Foursquare decals in the windows of their stores.
- The Boston Globe is encouraging people to discover more about the city with a location-based check-in service that is neither Foursquare nor Gowalla: SCVNGR
So things are definitely hotting up. What’s next? Apart from the most obvious – more businesses signing up to services like Foursquare to get to know their customers better and encourage repeat business, here’s what I think:
1. Local governments and city councils will use location-based services to encourage citizens to report instances of crime.
The other day I had a phone call from a research agency on behalf of Westminster Council, where I live, to assess the impact of crime in my area. If I could pin-point any instances that I knew of on a map, I’m sure it would help the police in their efforts. Sort of like the Metropolitan Police Crime Map, but user-generated, so that less resources can be spent on surveys. Of course, I’m assuming some level of digital literacy among the public.
2. Tourism Departments and Transport Departments of different cities will offer incentives for visitors and residents to discover their cities, similar to what the Boston Globe is doing.
However, it is important to remember the basic tenet behind any kind of social networking, whether location-based or otherwise: humans are social animals, and we like to share.
As Yan-David Ehrlich says in this post,
“Location — the “where” of a social experience — is not the most important characteristic of social media. In order to create lasting value, location-aware social networks need to look at what motivates their users to share with one another and make it central to the app’s design and user experience.““Location — the “where” of a social experience — is not the most important characteristic of social media. In order to create lasting value, location-aware social networks need to look at what motivates their users to share with one another and make it central to the app’s design and user experience.““
He also says,
He also says, “Features and services should come first, and checking-in should be viewed as an accessory. We have to move from creating services that are location-based to those that are “location-enhanced.”
That leads me to my next thought, which is:
3. It’s all going to get more social.
So far, Foursquare’s fun but there’s something missing. In the leaderboard, there are always some people who are Check-In Jedis and some who languish at the bottom. The automatic popping-up of tips (if there are any) when you check in at a venue is useful, but it doesn’t happen all the time, and it’s mostly from a stranger. Checking in is losing its novelty – so making it more shareworthy would change the nature of the game.
Would it be possible, for example, to create a chain of events? I check-in somewhere, leave a tip and pass that on to a friend I think would like the place. If they check in there within, say, a month, I get points. Or perhaps I could create a chain of good – I check-in somewhere and leave a code for a friend to use. If the code is used (i.e if my friend checks in there), I donate a certain amount to charity and my friend gets a code that she can leave for a friend of hers to use in turn. Or, using the Dell Swarm/Groupon/Living Social idea, a certain bunch of people agree to donate something if they all check-in at that place within a certain period of time (obviously the place has to be unusual, not the office local!).
We haven’t heard the last of location-based services. Hopefully in their quest for success, they’ll continue to tap into the human quest for opportunities to engage in social stuff.