Embracing the Game

by Kate Rados

Evan Schnittman and I had a brief Twitter exchange about Foursquare on Friday morning and it got me thinking about the outside perception of Location Based Services and how people are starting to use it. And of course, how it can be effectively used as a marketing tool. Natch… that’s my bag. Oh and when I say Foursquare, I’m also talking about all LBS apps, like Gowalla and MyTown. (PS: Gowalla, I’m not that into you. MyTown, you just bought me a cocktail from across the bar and I might be interested.)

Evan brought up some very good points that many people are probably thinking:

1 – Why should anyone care where he is?
2 – What’s the point of Foursquare?
3 – Why do we have to let anyone know where we are at any time?

My counter/bright side is this:

1 – There’s a spirit of camaraderie and competition in Foursquare. Kind of the point of the game. And I should say that word again: game.

2 – The point is to connect with people, leave information about a place, and potentially meet up with friends. That’s the consumer side. The biz side is to connect with your consumers, offer them a discount, market the hell out of your biz.

For instance, I just moved to Brooklyn (again), into a neighborhood with which I’m unfamiliar. So, I used Foursquare to check in and see what’s trending (where there are a lot of check-ins) and see if there are any local tips or special deals. One benefit of Foursquare is that it’s gotten me excited about exploring. Who wouldn’t want to earn the ‘Brooklyn for Life’ badge after just moving there?

And when a bunch of us went to SXSW this year, we all lived on the app. Not necessarily because we wanted to beat each other and get the most badges, but because I knew if I checked in at XYZ bar, my friends would know to meet me there later if they were around. And vice versa: we coordinated a number of times based on ‘not sure where we’ll be, but we’ll check in when we get there.’

And finally, whenever I go to a new city, I will definitely be using Foursquare as my Fodor’s. Logging into the app tells me what’s around, what’s trending, etc. What a fun way to sightsee – while earning badges and rewards.

3 – We don’t *HAVE* to let everyone know where we are. Just like Facebook filters (No need to cancel your account. Use your filters, check your settings, be responsible for your own content.) Don’t broadcast that you’re in line at the drug store, if you don’t want. Don’t follow people, if you don’t want to hear where they are. For that matter, don’t play. It’s like MySpace – I appreciate that there are still millions of people there, but I’m choosing not to be there and I’ll focus my energy on other outlets. Not a big deal.

And now, I’ll step into Marketer mode. If you’re a business, you should be looking into Location Based Social Media. I mean, why not?! If you’re a book store or library, why wouldn’t you prompt your readers to ‘check in’ to receive a 10% discount or special access to a signed copy or ‘firsties’ for the next author event? Why wouldn’t you add an upcoming event or book launch or author signing to your location? You can, you know!

I think Evan was right for bringing up these questions because he’s echoing a lot of what’s being asked. But, when people start to ‘get it,’ like they did with Twitter, wouldn’t you want to at least know how to meet them there?