Monday, August 23, 2010

Checking In With Facebook

Location based social networking seems to be a growing phenomenon that has largely become popular with users that wish to show-off the GPS capabilities of their smartphone. 

Foursquare is currently the market leader with over 500,000 users that can use the application to connect with friends by updating their current location. Points, badges and mayorships are awarded for checking in to locations for no apparent reason other than kudos. Foursquare users can also have their location updates automatically broadcast via Twitter and Facebook.

On the face of it, location based social networking would appear to be rather pointless and an open invitation to be cyberstalked, however we have used Foursquare as as a member of the public and as a location based business owner and we can see why folk find it appealing.

The game is potentially about to be ramped up with Facebook releasing its own location based social networking platform, "Facebook Places" that should quickly grow in popularity. For tourism businesses this is an opportunity and a challenge.

Accommodation providers may need to consider encouraging users to update their location at their property on Facebook Places with some reward in order to benefit from the exposure on social networks. Location updates may be able to be incorporated into a module on the accommodation provider's Facebook Fan Page along with a display of users that have previously checked-in.

An accommodation provider that wishes to invest the time would have an insight into the type of guest that would use Facebook Places. By using Facebook Places, the guest would be revealing what they did once they arrived at a destination, who they hung out with and what their interests are.

An obvious discussion that a guest may have with their network of friends after they update their accommodation location on Facebook Places is critiquing the motel or hotel that they are staying at. An iPhone wielding guest could be updating their experience live starting from the check-in at reception and continue with insightful opinions on the in-room services and amenities etc.

Accommodation providers need to be aware and quickly develop a process of dealing with both positive and negative feedback from the exposure on yet another customer feedback platform.

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