Sunday, May 16, 2010

Check-In or Watch Your Reputation Check-Out

Guide to location-based services, such as Foursquare and Gowalla, for PR and marketing professionals

I checked in on Foursquare as I arrived at a networking event the other day and I was greeted with a free drink if I showed my phone to the bartender. My excitement grew when Foursquare notified me that the restaurant across the street had a two-for-one dinner deal. I grabbed some colleagues to go with me. When we finished, I noticed that the bar across the street offered a free appetizer. So, we trouped across the street determined to follow our Foursquare adventure to its end even if we were already full. When we finished we had consumed drinks, dinner and appetizers all for less than $10 each.

As my experience shows, people are willing to give their location if they know they'll get something for it. JiWire's Insights report found that 53 percent of people are willing to show their location to get more relevant ads. Nielsen reports that 24 percent of Americans have a smartphone and we know that most of the new models have GPS. Foursquare has rapidly grown to 500,000 users and 275,000 check-ins in one day. Mashable reports that the other location-based check-in game, Gowalla, has about 100,000 customers. Additionally, nearly every user-generated review service is adding location to its mobile app because of its benefits to customers and the hope to attract higher advertising rates.

As a PR or marketing professional it is about time to add location-based services to your marketing mix and reputation management programs. Your customers are already mentioning your brand in these services and their comments are showing up in search results. It isn't hard to understand that like other social media, location-based services need active engagement and monitoring. Chuck Reynolds daftly details the impact of these services on local search and search engine visibility in this blog post.

Although not sanctioned by the company, there was even a Foursquare Day last month on April 16 (4/16) that fans put together. I know you have a lot to monitor already in the fragmented social media fracas, so here are some tools that can make it easy to keep an eye on public comments on Foursquare and Gowalla. Both Check-In Mania and FourWhere allow you to search for your business and view the shouts and recommendations people leave.

I love to see the updates and advice from my friends as they check-in throughout their day. It helps me find better restaurants and gets me to try new businesses. As a PR person, I've seen it create real-time buzz around an event and drive longer-term search engine results. It's time to check-in on your brand's reputation before your customers check-out.

Disclosure: JiWire is a client.

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