#1 Thing To Help Your Business? Location, Location, Location-Based Social Network
The single largest question that inevitably arises when business owners see location-based social networks in the media is "what's in it for me?". Beside the obvious opportunity for distributing digital versions of simple offers (i.e. coupons), there are more subtle ways to work the system.
Part of this equation is the understanding of the differences between brick-and-mortar and virtual. If you are a shop-owner, nothing is more valuable than bringing customers in through the front door. For media developers (television, movie or web) the same could be said for each person who views their message, commonly called "eyeballs."
The ability to use one of the two "worlds" to drive people to the other is inherently successful. For example, a customer at a salon is told that they can visit the salon's website for special offers; the website delivers this but also makes shampoos available for purchase online and then sends the customer back to the salon with coupon in-hand. But this cycle is no different than the model that includes newspapers or magazines.
The real benefit of the location-based or social network system comes from the interaction of the customer and the game mechanics that these systems integrate into their applications. For example, Foursquare has its "mayors" (the single person who has checked-in to a location the most days over the past 60 days) and we hear of serious competition for mayorship of particularly attractive locations. Foodspotting relies on its user's desire to share and compare their "foodie adventures" (you can find my account here). Real-world benefit to the customer comes from special offers based on number of check-ins (or mayorship); competition for these specials brings the customer back and provides the business' return on investment.
An additional benefit of participating in these networks is their integration into Twitter, Facebook and other social networks. Customers who wish to be recognized for their use of the location-based system will inevitably publish their location (and therefore, the business' information) to their followers and friends—providing additional publicity for the business.
These networks are now a real and regular piece of how we interact with our daily experiences. In the follow-up to this article, we intend to discuss possible innovations in this arena, such as near-field communication (NFC) technology.
Are you a business owner with an opinion on this topic? We would love to hear from you.