GPS-based Social Networking Needs Brands to Survive

Ted Wright of Fizz (a word-of-mouth marketing agency) questions all of this buzz about GPS based social networking.  His asks “WGAF” (Who Gives a F*ck).  He might be right.  Does anyone really care of you’re at Walgreen’s?  Probably not.

But just like anything else, isn’t all about content?  If you’re doing something interesting, fun or relevant to your network, wouldn’t they want to know about it?  And isn’t it more interesting if you’re posting a photo or restaurant review and using the GPS app as the vehicle?  That’s not that much different than Twitter or status updates on Twitter.

GPS social networking is a polarizing topic because it bleeds over into other networks where friends or followers haven’t opted in.  In other words, if we’re friends on Facebook, you have approved me as a contact, but you can’t optimize the level of interaction we have.  You can either turn me on or off.  You may be interested in an occasional status update or photo of my dog, but you’re probably not interested in when I take my dog to the vet.

Ted predicts, “GPS social networking will be the Second Life of 2010.”  I tend to agree with him unless one thing happens: Gowalla and Foursquare crack the code on working with brands.  Brands (and mainstream ones, at that) hold the key to making these apps relevant to the mainstream consumer by way of offering value to the user and the listener.  Wouldn’t Foursquare be more fun if check-ins unlocked offers, coupons and special deals to the people who check-in at a certain location and to the people who read that check-in?  As it stands now, very few brands are involved with either platform.  Yes, a few bars and coffee shops out there are offering deals to their “Mayor” but that excludes 99.999% of the population.  Furthermore, no one cares if their friend is getting a deal – they care if THEY’RE getting a deal.

Where will all of this go?  I agree with Ted – Foursquare and Gowalla probably won’t figure out how to work with brands and start to lose relevancy later this year and even more so in 2011.  Then Google will figure it all out and be one step closer to ruling the world.

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2 thoughts on “GPS-based Social Networking Needs Brands to Survive

  1. I believe the future of GPS based location service is UTILITY.

    From a user’s perspective, imagine “checking- in” to your local grocery store and being presented with targeted digital coupons and offers based on your past purchase decisions. From the brand perspective, imagine the brand-switch or up-sell/add-on potential when you deliver a Coke coupon to a known Pepsi drinker at the point of purchase, where most brand decision are made.

    I believe the future of GPS based location service is UTILITY. Make the app more useful and serve the in-store shopper. The brands win, the retailer wins, but most of all, the shopper wins.

  2. Good comment, Mike. This is exactly where Google is positioned to win – and they’re not even in the game yet. They know how to sell.

    I actually contacted both of the major GPS-based social networking platforms to see what could offer brand marketers. One called me back and had nothing to offer. The other didn’t even call me back.

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