Sunday, September 26, 2010

Initial Thoughts on Location-Based Social Networking

This weekend, I finally broke down and purchased an iPhone 4. So far, I love it. It makes it a snap to Tweet photos on the road (like this one from Beaver Stadium), and I can easily put new photos and posts on the Lawffice Space Tumblr (like this one of Justice Breyer's new book). One thing that I just couldn't do until now was participate in GPS or location-based social networks like Foursquare and Facebook Places. Here are my initial thoughts:

It's Fun!
There's something strangely addictive about pulling up my location on my cell phone and "checking-in" at local places. And Foursquare provides points and badges - I have no idea if they have any actual value but they're fun too.

Find Your Friends
If your friends are on there, you can see if they're in the same area as you. For example, if I go downtown to watch the Steelers game, I can check to see if any of my friends are at one of the downtown spots. Or, I was at Beaver Stadium this Saturday and I could have (if I had any friends on Foursquare yet) seen if any of my old buddies were back in town for the game. In short, there's some networking potential here.

Interact with Businesses
Some businesses offer special deals for people who check-in on Foursquare. Also, if the businesses keep an eye on who's checking in with them, they can see that you're one of their (frequent) customers. If nothing else, it lets the others on the site know that you're out and about and active. I see some (frankly, not a lot at this point) marketing potential.

Who Cares?
Sometimes, people just don't care what you're doing. Foursquare allows you to share your check-ins via Twitter, and this morning I tweeted to my 1,162 followers that I was at McDonald's for breakfast. I'm pretty sure 1,161 of them didn't care (the exception being my wife who was eagerly awaiting my delivery of her fruit cup). You can disable the auto-tweet though.

Security and Privacy
I don't think it takes a genius to see that you need to be very careful about telling people when you're not home.

I've only been doing this for one day, so the "fun factor" may be short-lived. Somehow, I don't see myself finding the new badges fun after 6 months. But we shall see...

From a marketing and networking stand point, I'm just not seeing the instant return I got from Twitter. Looong-time Lawffice Space readers may recall (in the first week of publication!) my amazement when I announced my then-new blog via Twitter only to have it retweeted to several thousand people. I don't see that instant gratification here. That said, it's fun and requires only (literally) the push of a button when you go somewhere to play these location-based games. So, I'll keep doing it for now and let you know of any developments.

Posted by Philip Miles, an employment lawyer with McQuaide Blasko in State College, Pennsylvania.

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