Checking In…

When I joined Twitter about 3 years ago I was at a bit of a loss and not really sure what to do. There weren’t many people I knew or celebrities using it and it all seemed a little pointless. I abandoned it for a while. Needless to say I now check it every day and have been reaping the benefits (advanced ticket offers, free lunches to name a couple).  

But now I find myself in those early stages with the location based social networks and again am feeling a little lost and questioning their relevance. Having learnt from my Twitter experience though, I’m going to stick with it and hopefully others I know will join me in time.

Over the last few weeks I have registered with 3 of these networks all offering similar services: Gowalla, Foursquare and Brightkite and am afraid I’m in need of a bit more convincing. All offer access via the web and applications for various smartphones. I’m currently friendless on all networks as no one I know is using them. I feel like the secret nerd that I truly am.

Foursquare seems to be the far more suitable option for myself given that it actually has places registered that I know, though I’m not sure I really want to be the ‘mayor’ of my local railway station. As far I can see, the advantage of visiting and checking in at all the locations listed should result in some tangible benefits, however what my local dental hospital (at the top of the locations near me) can really offer me is uncertain! Gowalla and Brightkite offer the same options of checking in and sharing locations via other networks eg Facebook and Twitter but from what I have seen, these are much more US focussed and there were even fewer locations and users in my area. It’s one of those things I suppose: people like me may not be giving it a fair chance due to the limited number of registered locations already available, though it will never grow unless people make an effort with.

On the positive side, I must say that I did find out a few tips about my local area that I never knew about. In Foursquare, users can share tips about things to look out for or upcoming events and from a quick glance these were really useful. I have added some to my To Do list. I also earnt my first badge for my first check in. I can’t help but feel like I’m back at Brownies but it’s nice to feel like your achieving something.

The special treats are also nice and this is where business will do well to get registered and start making offers to users. By checking in regularly and becoming Mayor at the Urban Coffee Co in Birmingham you can receive a free coffee per week. Great…though as more users register, the more you have t0 check in and spend there to get that free coffee. It’s got to pay off for business to get involved. Jimmy Choo also made the headlines by offering a hunt in London leading ultimately to free shoes for the lucky few.

Gowalla offers a very similar service: badges for achieving specific tasks and rewards for checking in at locations. As mentioned before it feels much more US focused and as yet there is far less on offer for me here. One notable difference here is the Trips section which allows users to custom design a trip using up to 20 locations. Other users can then browse trips in their area and try them out for themselves.

Brightkite again offers a similar service to Foursquare/Gowalla in terms of being location based, however seems to be much more focused on friends and socialising. You can see where your friends are, find new places and share the information but I can’t see it being used a way to earn rewards. It also offers free group texting (to US mobile phones) and you can monitor the responses via the web as well as phone. Group events (‘Kite Ups’) can also be organised to get users/friends together.

Out of all of these, I’m more likely to stick to Foursquare as there seem to be tangible rewards and feels much more orientated to the UK. But time will tell. I’ll probably forget about it and come back in a year or so 🙂

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