Location Based Social Networking

Location based networking takes stalking to a whole new level.

Location based Social Networking websites like Foursquare and Gowalla, let you tell your connections where you are. Simple enough, right? So why are these websites getting so much buzz?

First, let me explain them. Location based websites allow you to “check in” at different locations on your phone showing all of your friends where you are. You can also put a short blurb about what you’re doing (many of my morning gym visits have been preceeded with an “Ugghh”). Points, badges, and pins are awarded for check ins, check in frequency, adding locations, merging duplicate locations, etc. Users can broadcast the checkins to their already established Facebook and Twitter accounts telling their connections where they are and what they’re doing there.

LocationBasedSocialThe Holy Grail for Local Business?

Businesses can benefit from these platforms by allowing them to market to people that are currently in their vicinity. This could be tremendous for local businesses. Think about it. I’m at the gym, and the guy who owns the supplement store 3 doors down can communicate with me that he has a special discount today. A sandwhich shop can offer discounts to people shopping in the area. Possibly just an offer to frequent customers can bring repeat business- like an incentive program. The business will benefit by getting free advertising from customers telling their friends every time they check in. This is far greater than the business itself telling potential customers how great they are. Customers are telling people who know and trust them and it doesn’t cost the business anything except some time (and possibly a small incentive). More proof that Social Media is Power to the People.

How Users Can Benefit

This type of online networking can benefit offline relationships by telling friends when they’re in the same vicinity- or possibly be used to avoid an ex-significant other.

On Foursquare users can write “Tips” for specific locations. Grape Street is a restaurant here in Las Vegas I love to frequent. Under the Tips section, one user tells me that Mondays are 1/2 priced bottles of wine, some users say which desserts are the best, which days have specials, etc.

Security Issues

I’ve blogged before about Social Media smarts and how you shouldn’t broadcast when you’re going on vacation. So try not to broadcast too far in advance where you’ll be. Also: Don’t check in at home. Don’t check in at your significant other’s home. Don’t checkin at your bank. Use common sense.

Until a winner is crowned by the people, users checking in on multiple websites can be tedious. To prevent you from spending 15 minutes checking in at each location on all of your networks, some programs like Check.in allow you to check in your location on multiple location websites.

Which is your favorite Location Based Network and why?

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