Remember when telling people where you are and what you're doing was cool? Someone made an app for that. Then someone else made an app for that. Then everyone had an app for that. One by one, those apps died until there were very few still standing. The social check-in revolution was looming large but now it seems that the word "Foursquare" is now little more than a whisper on the lips of yesterday's social networkers.
So what happened?
Foursquare in Trouble?
Looking at the biggest player in the social check-in game, Foursquare, things aren't looking good. Although it is still seeing signs of growth, the actual growth rate has slowed to almost a crawl and let's face it, you just don't see as many Foursquare tweets these days either (thankfully).
It seems that Foursquare has noticed that the world is changing around it. It’s recently shown interest in the quantified self movement with a recent update which lets you know (and share) when you've done something awesome like going to the gym three times in a row.
Location is(n’t) Dead
It would be easy to say "location is dead" at this point, but that's clearly not the case. It seems that there has been a shift from telling people where you are, to telling people where you have been and what you’ve been doing. Recent development on Facebook’s “actions” make the latter much easier. The other side of this coin is that people are using this information to find places to go and things to do. Although there are plenty of services that do this (Google+ Local, Facebook Places, Yelp and Qype to name but a few), for me this is where Foursquare still holds firm ground. Personally, I've found it to be an absolute boon when I've been on holiday and I've been looking for somewhere to eat or drink. With Foursquare opening up promotions to smaller businesses they may just be able to hang on in there.
Naturally, Facebook has also noticed the shift towards location discovery and appears to be trialling a rating system for places. Is there a new land-grab happening right under our noses?
Google’s position on this is an interesting one. Having now rolled Google Places up into Google+ under the name “Local”, this gives any location listed on Google Local prime positioning not only on Google+ but also within Google’s normal web search results.
Watch out TripAdvisor, it looks like everyone is clambering for your space.
Long Live Location
This shift seems to make perfect sense. It's quite natural for us to want to share what we've done and where we've been. It's equally natural to want to listen when others are doing the same, in order to gain advice on what to do ourselves. And it's these things that people will need to optimize for as a business. Help people to share their experiences and you will reap the benefits when people are looking for businesses like yours.
Another thing to remember here is that when people are out and about, looking for things to do or places to go, they will - more often than not - be using a mobile device. Whichever app or service they decide to use, you need to be there. If you're not, you could lose a lot of business to those that are.
It's not just for bars and restaurants either. If you have a physical shop window of any kind or you rely on local business in any way, you need to make sure that when you're searched for, that you are found. It will be massively in your favor if people are saying nice things about your business, too.
Life Beyond Check-ins
I believe there’s still a lot more to be explored (literally) in terms of location on social. Check-ins and recommendations are just the start. In my opinion, we’re only just beginning to see really creative use of location.
One to watch is Glober, a social network that connects people based on their locations. The app also highlights businesses and events based on location. There is also some interesting stuff going on in the world of advertising too. UberMedia’s new product UberAds allows targeting based on a combination of social signals and location.
The combination of social media and mobile technology has given us the power to talk about what we want, when we want to. Add location to the mix and you expand that power to getting what you want where you want it, too.
Lee Stacey on Google+