If you are going to test check-ins, test it with the market leader.
As any family member will tell you, I only bet when I'm dead wrong. At the turn of the century, for example, I was certain that AOL would soon go out of business. My prediction that SMS and email messaging would ultimately merge in my last column generated a lot of valid counter-arguments. Undaunted, I forge on with this prediction: Facebook Places will be the category killer of check-in apps.
There are a plethora of check-in apps, otherwise known as location-based social networks (LBSN), such as Foursquare, Gowalla, and Google Latitude, each fighting for market share. They offer a variety of incentives for checking in, allowing users to announce their whereabouts to their social networks, find nearby retailers, receive coupons, accumulate points/stamps/rewards, and play location-based games.
In his witty article on ReadWriteWeb, "2011: The Year Check-In Died," Mark Watkins opines, "In 2011, a service that's just about check-ins is going to struggle (best case) or die (worst case). Those that succeed need to find a stronger motivation than badges and self-branding to thrive…That might come in the form of coupons and discounts, but that will run into trouble with the likes of Groupon and Facebook, both of which have far larger distribution."
Hence the advantage of Facebook, particularly in light of Facebook Places Deals, which allows businesses to tie an offer to their location listing and check in. (It is particularly gratifying to see charitable donations as a reward, a practice I think is brilliant and first-rate social currency.)
Other significant advantages of Facebook Places:
Facebook Places went from zero to the dominant player in less than a year. Launched in August 2010, it has approximately 42 percent of U.S. market share, according to a White Horse Digital Futures Group survey, reported in "Lost in Geolocation: Why Consumers Haven't Bought It, and How Marketers Can Fix It." Although the study also found users' primary motivations to be "Connection to other people I know or could meet" and "Finding a place liked by people I trust," I feel this is more a reflection of the lack of solid offers available to date.
So there it is, my prediction and recommendation that if you are going to test check-ins, test it with the market leader. What's your prediction? (Facebook haters: please see this article.)
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Melinda Krueger is a senior marketing consultant with ExactTarget and a digital marketing veteran – starting with direct, moving to interactive, specializing in e-mail, and now charting a course for mobile marketing. Working with the best agencies in the business, she has helped Harley-Davidson, Miller Brewing, Sears/Kmart, CDW, and many others build their interactive marketing programs. Melinda holds an MBA from Marquette University and is a highly-rated speaker for professional organizations and business schools. As the Email Diva, Melinda answered questions on all aspects of the practice. Your questions about mobile are welcome!
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