Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ever Hear of Location-based Services, Boomers? How about Foursquare?

Recently I read a post by a marketer who believes that Boomers increasingly will be using location-based services. In case you don't know what these are, I'll try my best to explain. Your cell phone probably has GPS in it, the same kind of GPS that gives you directions in the car. With many cell phones, especially smart phones, you can download geolocation apps such as Foursquare. Foursquare lets you "check in" when you are at a particular location, such as a concert, or even a department store or Starbucks. "Checking in" means letting all of your contacts know where you are at that particular moment, and also letting the establishment know that you are there.



When I first heard about this, I thought, why would anyone want to let people know where they are? That's fine for kids who have time to hang out together and want to find their friends, but why would I do it? Well apparently, according to blogger  Anne Mai Bertelsen, president of  MAI Strategies, Boomers, me included, are going to want to do this for many reasons.

First of all, I'll be able to keep track of all the places I've been. Ever wonder what the name of that great restaurant you went to in San Francisco was? Or where you saw that piece of jewelry you just couldn't decide whether you wanted or not? If you "check in" at the places you go you'll be able to track that information. You'll have a memory jogger, something Boomers can surely use.

Also, I'll be rewarded when I "check in" frequently at one place. So my 5th trip to Starbucks or my 3rd trip to an expensive restaurant will reap some kind of recognition. Perhaps a dollar off a Frappuccino will be in my future, Bertelson says. Or maybe I'll get a free desert at the restaurant.

One of the geo-location apps -- Loopt --that can be downloaded onto a smart phone is a sort of virtual loyalty program. I use my loyalty card to get discounts at the Shoprite near my home. Why wouldn't I want to use a virtual loyalty program? Discounts, without having to clip coupons, are something Boomers can easily understand. Below you'll see what the Loopt iPhone app looks like.



Bertelson says that one of the reasons she uses the services is that her friends use it. When they go to a restaurant they post what they liked eating there, for example. I suppose they also will post what to avoid. Then when she goes to that same restaurant and checks in, she finds recommendations from her own friends. That's kind of cool.

A working woman, Betelson says she is also able to use the services to find colleagues at conferences. Occasionally, she's even been able to locate relatives who happen to be in the same place she is at the same time. Here's how it would work. You are visiting a crowded craft fair and unbeknown to you Cousin Mary is wandering around the same craft fair. Odds are you won't meet. However, if you've both "checked in" to the craft fair, you'll know that Mary is there, and you'll be able to contact her and find her.

There are lots of other location based apps for the iPhone, for Twitter and even for Facebook.  Some other prominent new services include Gowalla, Where, BriteKite, MyTown, PegShot. They are catching on in popularity and my bet is that in another year or so, many Boomers who have never heard of these services will be using them with abandon, just as they use Facebook.

Just remember, if you do decide to experiment with location services, protect your privacy. Make sure that only friends you know can find you. Conversely, please be careful about letting everyone and anyone know that no one is at home.

Some sites are already exploiting the negative side of  geo-location. According to DYP Advisors, these services can let bad people know you are not home. "A website called Please Rob Me links Twitter updates of people who say they are not home to locations using Google Maps," a blog post on the DYP Advisors Inc.web site says. The DYP blog also says if you use geolocation services you might be in for higher home insurance premiums. When you visit Please Rob Me it really only demonstrates the possibility of using location-based services this way. Nevertheless, it's a scary thought how these services could be misused, and like anything else on the Internet, protect yourselves.

To see Anne Mai Bertelsen's complete post called "I Get Around" go to Engage Boomers at http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=130044

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