When it comes to location I am really interested in the technology and where it is going as a guy that is into new shiny things. (Does that make me a technologist or a geek? Is there a difference?) Professionally for most of my clients I am encouraging them to experiment with these tools but not to dump a lot of time and resources into it because realistically for most businesses it is a total waste of time.
Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to be able to log into a location-based service and not only let me friends know where I am at (and see where they are) but see a copy of the menu and what my friends rated the dishes. (Beyond just a few tips and to-dos.) Furthermore if I am at a place that has a tour that works with augmented reality it would be nice to launch that through Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook, Whrrl, Twitter, Brightkite, Yelp, or whatever service wins out in the location war. But we aren’t even there yet. Not only is there a lack of functionality but also ultimately there is a lack of wide adoption.
Recently I drove cross-country and checked in at the various places I stopped. One of the cool things about Gowalla is that you get badges when you check into new states. Staringt in Massachusetts then driving through: New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and then points south and west the sharp decline on the amount of check ins to a state went into a staggering decline. Looking at that decline how can I make a recommendation that people should be jumping on “the next hot thing”?
New York: 7428
While visiting my friend’s bar in a college town in Western, NY I noticed that if I went bar hopping two nights in a row I would discover and become mayor of just about every establishment in town. This isn’t an uneducated area with a base of technophobes, there just isn’t a desire to use these products yet.
So who should be experimenting with location?
1) Businesses in destination cities: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York are all places that not only have a decent size population base (Vegas less so compared to the others) but also have people traveling in that are using check in services. Business in this area should experiment with location-based strategies.
2) Cities with a strong tech reputation: Boston, San Francisco, Austin, and Seattle. These cities are full of early adopters; this is something that local businesses should leverage.
3) Tourist areas: (I know this may tie into number one) You can do some fun things in tourist areas that aren’t in large cities. This needs to be less about mayorships and more about either random checkins or strong to-dos.
I want to be clear about this, I think there is a lot of potential in this area for businesses to do a lot of interesting things. However I think for the vast majority of businesses it should not be a focus right now. Worry more about local search, the tools that people in your community are using (maybe it is location based services), and make sure you are listening and managing your reputation. Then if you want to dabble in location-based services… give it a try.
What do you think about the emergence of location based technologies?