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What will it take to put social business-discovery tools on the map?

2 min read


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

This week, we asked: Do you use location-based social tools for local business discovery?

  • No — 61.64%
  • Yes — 38.36%

The business strategies of many social services such as Foursquare and Path are betting hard that users of social networks will be willing to use social tools to find businesses near them. Social-discovery tools have come a long way since the early days of Yelp, but the service still hasn’t caught on with most  SmartBrief on Social Media readers.

I think recent privacy flaps such as the one surrounding changes to Instagram’s terms of service will end up making it harder for location-based networks to get users to embrace social business discovery. These kinds of services work best when the service has a healthy profile of the kinds of businesses you like — so that it knows to flag a hot new burrito place, but not to bother letting you know about a gardening supply store.

That kind of profile requires a huge amount of user data — something users will only surrender if they feel like they’re getting something in return and if they feel like their personal data won’t be abused. Foursquare and its ilk got off to a slow start when it came to demonstrating value, but they’ve gotten better in the past year. All that hard work could fall apart, however, if these networks get too greedy when it comes to the kinds of data they collect and what they choose to do with it. A robust profile on a location-based network can be a win for users and the businesses in their area — but only if the network manages that data relationship just right.