All Articles Marketing Are location-based social tools as popular as they seem?

Are location-based social tools as popular as they seem?

3 min read


This post was written by Mirna Bard, a social media consultant, speaker, author and instructor of social media at the University of California at Irvine.

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social media practices and issues.

Last week’s poll question: Do you check in with location-based social tools (such as Facebook Places, Foursquare, etc.) when you are out and about?

  • Never — 56.00%
  • Frequently — 13.54%
  • Sometimes — 11.69%
  • Rarely — 10.46%
  • All the time — 8.31%

One article after another argues that location-based social tools are the hottest trend, but I am not convinced. I was starting to wonder if I was one of the very few not using location-based tools to check in when I am traveling or running around town. What a relief it was to see these results, which confirm that I am not alone.

I now know I am part of the majority and the 56% of SmartBrief on Social Media readers who said they never use these tools. Certainly, I see the hype and rapid growth around the location-based segment, but I am not quite sure if these tools are as popular as some people suggest.

According to November 2010 research paper from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, just 4% of online Americans use location-based services such as Foursquare or Gowalla. I am sure this number has increased since the study, but I still think relatively few have taken up social location-based social tools. I am also not sure we can say that location-based platforms like Foursquare are tried and proven as marketing tools, but that probably deserves another poll.

Aside from knowing how these tools work as a part my business, I personally think it is a waste of time for me to check-in every time I am out and about. If I ever decide to use these tools, it would be more like checking out instead of checking in for the sake of privacy issues. In addition from privacy, I don’t want my twitter feed and Facebook news feed to be flooded with real-time location updates. I know I am also not alone with this one.

It would be great to hear from poll respondents on how they truly feel about these tools. If you’ve never used location-based tools, what’s your reason for using them? And, if you use them frequently, what motivates you to do so?