Geolocation isn’t going away, so what will it become and where will it fit in? In February of 2010, I was interested in the technology. It was relatively new and Foursquare was making it fun to give geolocation a test drive. My friend Joe Sorge even created an event around earning the Foursquare Swarm Badge and we shot this YouTube video during the event: Milwaukee SWSX Flash Mob @AJBombers. A few months after the event, my interest in geolocation fizzled.
First, geolocation needs consumer buyin
Before we get to the loyalty card aspect of this conversation, you need to understand why the technology got interesting to me again. It’s the gamification. Yep, I’m a sucker for a good game and if we’re going to keep score even better! As the Foursquare platform has matured, the game playing aspect of the application has improved dramatically. Even when I’d lost interest in Foursquare, I continued to use it to check in at interesting venues and then share that information with my Twitter stream. I also add a message to the checkin to give context and interest to the tweet.
Recently, I attended a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston. It was my first trip to Fenway and I checked in on Foursquare so I could share the experience with my Twitter friends. That checkin earned me 17 points! If gamification doesn’t float your boat, I get it but that was a big deal to someone who has followed geolocation since the early days. It occurred to me they were getting closer to having it right. Showing up someplace new and sharing that with my audience should have significant value.
At the moment, you don’t win anything for a 17-point first time checkin at Fenway, but I can’t imagine it staying that way for long. In order to get merchants interested in geolocation, and I mean really interested as in committing big dollars to the concept, you need consumers using the technology in a big way. I think this continued growth of the gamification aspect is working for Foursquare. Take a look at this infographic showing Foursquare’s growth from zero to 10 million users in roughly two years.
Could geolocation become the ultimate loyalty card?
So why should I have to carry a loyalty card for Starbucks, Hilton, and every other brand big and small I am committed to being loyal to? I’m a technology guy and I can’t see it being a big deal to link my geolocation account to your loyalty program. Now, as long as I check in, you know I’m in your establishment. But Jim, how do we know what you purchased or how long you stayed? Again, I’ve spent enough time in the technology game to know that part of this problem is child’s play.
Before any of that matters too much, we need the 10 million Foursquare users to become 100 million. It’s either that or as Google+ grows, things could change very rapidly. Google+, which has geolocation built into the mobile version, reached 10 million users in two weeks not the two years it took Foursquare. Also, remember that Google+ integrates with Google Places that many merchants large and small already use to make sure their online information is up-to-date.
I know lots of folks feel Google doesn’t get social media. I’m not so sure it’s that as much as Google gets business and up until now it’s been hard to make solid business cases for social media from a provider perspective. Perhaps Google now sees how social media, in the form of Google+, can link many of their other proven business tools together and make the world a better place for consumers and businesses alike.
Google is also beginning to own the mobile market with the worldwide adoption rates of the Android platform for mobile devices. This is just one more argument for the seamless integration of many of the technology bits that are social media related. Geolocation is going to be part of the ongoing business case for social media adoption by businesses. This technology is not going away; it’s just maturing.