Going Geosocial or Staying Put in Web Marketing

By Jan Zimmerman

Several applications of location-based services, including social mapping (identifying where people are) and location-based games, now exist. They’re evolving quickly into loyalty programs that reward consumers for patronizing particular retailers.

The convergence of GPS, mobile phones, and social media offers the holy grail of opportunity for marketers. Theoretically, you can inform potential customers that you offer exactly what they’re looking for, when they’re looking for it, and within just a few miles of their locations.

For most businesses, geolocation marketing involves a teaser deal that attracts nearby residents or out-of-town visitors who “check in” online when they arrive at the establishment. This concept is particularly attractive for events, tourist sites, restaurants, and entertainment venues. Almost all these services, such as Foursquare, Gowalla, and Loopt, notify subscribers by text message or on their mobile sites whenever an offer is available nearby.

Each service operates a little differently, with some offering virtual badges or special offers to repeat customers (those who check in most often) or first-timers. Unlike group coupons, these offers are generally inexpensive, so merchants face no significant losses.

In March 2010, Foursquare, one of the most prominent geolocation services, added a tool that lets businesses monitor ― by number, gender, day of week, or time of day ― visitors who check in to Foursquare. Retailers won’t see a better breakdown until cyberpsychics start offering marketing services.

Promote your geosocial participation in as many ways as possible: on your other social media accounts and websites, on signs at cash registers, and even on sandwich boards on sidewalks.

Because most individual users select only one service, it doesn’t hurt to sign up for several of them to increase your coverage. To make your life easier, try a tool such as PlacePunch to coordinate multiple location check-in services.