Where you at? Check in.

The verb “to check-in” has taken on a drastically different connotation over the past 18 months. Checking in has gone from the realm of a person-to-person connection, as in “Hey Mom, I’m staying at Tyler’s house for the night. Just checking in with you,” to a person-to-place relationship. Now, checking in refers to location-based services, as in “Noah Singer just checked into 9th Street Espresso.” Or how it would appear in Twitter, “noahlsinger I’m at 9th Street Espresso http://4sq.com/2kr8jW.”

I believe that the latter version of checking in will become how we predominantly think of this verb and will play a prominent part in our social lives as people. Marketers should also take notice, and they have, since this is an important pillar in branding and spreading messages to your audiences.

Marketing is about finding and influencing people to sell goods or services to. Enter the rapid increase of Internet usage and digital devices and the choices of media explode. Marketers are able to data mine terabytes of human activity information to personalize messages for each individual consumer, or so the goal is. That Overstock.com ad you see in Grooveshark for a little black dress that you looked at two weeks ago is no coincidence. Advertising based on behavioral targeting is not a new thing and will only improve. However, the behaviors we are aggregating data on are changing. Online, always-connected technologies like our ever-so-useful mobile devices are leading this change.

At the vanguard of this are those LBS’s. Some of the more common LBS’s are Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite, Loopt, CauseWorld and SCVNGR. All of these services let you check in at certain locations and share this message with your friends on that LBS, Twitter, and/or Facebook.

Beyond this shared function, they all differ in their unique value propositions and offer different experiences on their platforms. The key here is that people are beginning to create a database of information which shows where they are going and which places they are actively choosing to show an affiliation with.

This is awesomely powerful from a sociological point of view, and more importantly for marketers, marketing, of course! Marketers are using this information to strengthen their connections with consumers through specials for those who check-in at certain locations, by creating journeys/scavenger hunts through these services, and adding more context to what their brand stands for through tips about cities and places.

Based off the number of advertisers who are exploring this on Foursquare, it is clear that LBS’s are a marketing hit. But is it appealing to Millennials? I believe it is.

My first hunch is based off my own group of friends. My friends’ Facebook walls are becoming more and more populated with 4sq.com location links and this trend doesn’t seem to be stopping. My second hunch is that with major universities being some of the first organizations to create LBS experiences, like Syracuse University and the University of Arkansas, any Millennials not on board will be soon. Most university students will now be introduced to an LBS when going off to school to help explore their new homes.

In two years from now what will checking in come to stand for? Will we be still checking in with Mom? Friends? Your girlfriend? I’d think no. I believe the way we communicate our location will change. We will still call people to say, “Hey, where are you?” as an ice breaking question, but this won’t be the crux of the conversation since this information will be already be known .

Noah Singer Noah Singer is a Product Marketing Manager focusing on social media on the Windows Consumer Marketing team at Microsoft. Previously he was a Search Account Manager for Bing at Microsoft Advertising. Before Microsoft, Noah has held positions at Citigroup, Lowe New York, Miramax Films, & Elizabeth Arden. Noah holds a B.B.A. in Marketing from James Madison University with concentrations in European Business and Business to Consumer Marketing and holds a minor in Educational Media. He believes knowledge is power and enjoys spontaneity. Twitter: @noahlsinger

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3 Responses to “Where you at? Check in.”

  1. Jessica Weil

    Interesting thoughts.

    I think the ultimate success of LBNs will depend on whether or not the mainstream begins finding value in this technology. At this point, LBNs are still not widely used, and the purpose is not entirely clear to the majority of consumers. Do you think marketers will continue summoning up the motivation to engage their consumers this way…when the truth is that most of those consumers are not yet “checked in” to this technology?

  2. Tom Miesen

    It might be a little too early for predictions, but It seems like FourSquare is going to be the most-used location-based network in the future. It is in a huge growth-spurt right now, and with its newest $20 million financing being announced just the other week, it is likely that they'll be rolling out new services.

    Once businesses learn how to harness the power of FourSquare and other location-based services, I think it will have another growth spurt. The slower, more traditional businesses are still learning how to use Facebook and Twitter to gather fans and increase visits, so the it might take a while.

    I think these services will eventually meld with the other new tech that's on the way (Augmented Reality, Visual Search, Facial Recognition, and Mobile Advertising) to create something amazing. Time will only tell how these technologies will work together to create a new future.

    Tom Miesen


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