Businesses are still struggling with finding the right social media strategies, let alone strategies for check-in apps like Foursquare, Gowalla, and the recently launched Facebook Places. WebProNews spoke with Lawrence Coburn, CEO of geolocation app provider DoubleDutch about where this industry is headed and what it means for businesses looking to take advantage.
"I think it’s still early days," he tells us. "I think a huge step for the whole industry was when Facebook Places launched a check-in. And I think the big question that we all need to answer is like ‘is the check-in becoming a gesture that’s gonna be as common as a status update?’ which is, you know, Twitter’s thing…I think it is. I think we’ve passed critical mass, especially with Facebook in the game."
"What Facebook did is they launched a very basic service, and with a couple exceptions," he adds. "They did some pretty cool stuff, but for the most part, it’s very basic."
Facebook has over half a billion users, so naturally, when the company launched Facebook Places, a lot questions surfaced about other check-in services. Would they be able to compete with such a monster?
"It looks to me like Foursquare has weathered the storm with Facebook’s initial launch, and I don’t think Foursquare’s going anywhere," Coburn says. "I think they’re gonna keep growing. I do think that there’s gonna be a shake-out, like right now there’s probably 10 or 15 consumer-facing check-in apps, and I don’t know if the market can support all those identical apps, but I think we’ll see some fragmentation as well."
"I think the real competition from the Facebook ecoystem is gonna come from third-party developers like Zynga that build on top of the Facebook Places API, because you’ll notice with Facebook Places that they haven’t done anything with like virtual goods like badges or points, and these are some of the main attractions of Foursquare and Gowalla," he adds. "So they’ve just left that open, but I know that third-party developers won’t be so shy, and they’ll come in and make games, because there’s a lot of good game developers on Facebook."
Games are one thing, and there are ways businesses can take advantage of games themselves, but is there more to this phenomenon than just games? Real business applications?
"I think that location is so fundamental that it has its chance to be its own mega-hit in it’s own right," Coburn says. "Think about it. You want to know where your friends are. You want to know where your family is. You need to know where your co-workers are….To me it’s almost more fundamental than like a status update, which if you had to pitch Twitter to me on paper now, if I had never seen it, it would be a tough sell, but it worked. It became like a communication channel in its own right."
"Right now you hear about a lot of campaigns that big brands are doing with Foursquare, in terms of giving away free stuff, I think Gowalla gave away a bunch of New Jersey Nets tickets. Then there’s like deals with Starbucks and I think, Brightkite," he says. "It’s all interesting stuff, but I think there’s a lot of experimentation, trying to see where the value is for big brands…We do know this: if a consumer tells you (a brand, a company) where they are, it’s a big deal."
"It’s almost like a search query that isn’t going to Google," he continues. "It’s like they’re telling you ‘I’m here, what do you have for me?’ and that’s an opportunity for brands and marketers, and I think we’re gonna figure it out as to where the monetary value is."
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