Is Obama checking in into the White House…

Using Foursquare, Gowalla or Facebook Places?  Or does Sarkozy at the Elysée? The Queen at Buckingham Palace?  Or even closer to home, Yves Leterme at the Lambertmont #1?  We are sure of one thing: Bart De Wever and Elio Di Rupo are not using it to plan their “secret location” meetings to form a government.

What is this all about?

Location based social network applications are among the fastest growing sectors of the digital world and getting a lot of attention.  Where as Facebook answers the question “What is on your mind?” and Twitter “What is happening?”, location based software answers the question “Where are you?”.

Foursquare and Gowalla are today’s leading players.  They have quickly understood that check-ins need more than just telling people “where” you are.  They are offering badges and mayorships to maintain competitiveness and keep users interested.  Facebook is now also joining the race with the introduction of Facebook Places.

Today, location based social media is a narcissistic tool focusing on bragging rights tied to a leader board, number of check-ins and mayorships. But the business potential it holds is enormous.  Just image that when you check-in at a store on the high street, you can get an 10% extra discount on the spot if you show them the message you get back from the software.

Personal implications

Location based services are a great tool to bring the old and traditional networking back to life. Whenever you check-in using this type of service, you will get a list of friends in the neighborhood – as well as their location – inviting you to go and see them.

Of course, with every upside there is a downside.  When you are checking in, you are making your location public and wave the right to privacy.  Linking this update to your other social media profiles amplifies the reach of this message.  When you check-in, you tell the world you are not home and should keep in mind that there are people in the world that will take advantage of this piece of information (www.pleaserobme.com).

Business implications

Attracting clients to a retail business might be fine, but in a B2B environment the benefits are more difficult to demonstrate.  Yes, you can get clients to come to your booth at a show, get info on your client’s preferences, etc.

Mentioning the clients where you are might be great advertising (you think), though checking in at these clients might not be the best practice since other people might be listening in and finding new prospects. On another note, you might be violating your client’s confidentially or they might not want their name mentioned in connection to you.  Personally, I feel that you should not mention client and project names and this should be clearly stated in your social media policy.

But what about me?

Let me take you back to the mid-80’s when I had to spend 7 weeks in the USA for a product training.  At that time, I made the decision to never go and eat twice at the same restaurant.  I ended up after those 7 weeks with a document of restaurants which I had rated.  My list became a hot ticket for the people in the training department since they were able to advice their trainees on different places.

Of course, I use location based software today, however my social media policy the guideline says that I should never mention the client or their building on this service.  So, when giving away my location, I tend to name the restaurant or hotel in the neighborhood where I have lunch, coffee or a break.  My connections get the benefit of where I am, but my client’s privacy is protected.

The future?

More and more devices will have built-in location aware technology and this will fuel the growth of this software application area.  I even want to go so far as to say that the location based software will become the front-end to most of our social media platforms.  Where B2C will initially rake in the benefits of this technology, B2B will soon follow. I wonder how fast the evolution in this field will be..

BTW, The Answer…

To the question posed at the beginning of this article is NO.  Obama does not check in at the White House, nor does Sarkozy or the Queen at their work residences.  Even Yves Leterme doesn’t.  But who does?  People looking for their 15 minutes of fame!

Mic Adam

Social Media Policy Creator, Vanguard Leadership

Originally appeared in De Tijd in september 2010

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