Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Check out the check in

As the largest social network, I imagine most readers will have had some experience of Facebook. Depending on when you joined the network, you will have seen it in one of many different guises, more than likely to have been after the focus of the platform changed from being based around looking at your friends profiles individually to the now ubiquitous news feed which aggregates all your friend’s activity on one page.

Almost all social platforms now implement some form of news feed or stream. Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Foursquare, Quora, Instagram. Almost every single one.

Yet a second type of social platform is starting to gain traction based around participation and action. These are the check in platforms. Foursquare, Gowalla, GetGlue, gomiso and similar. It is a more direct, action based platform, and it requires a different type of behaviour. Consequently, commercial opportunities are different.

I think these platforms are more complex for marketers to get involved in than the news feed based platforms for two reasons.

Firstly, the news feed battle takes place at our convenience. We view and interact with the news feed when it’s convenient to us. With the check in, it is almost disruptive behaviour. It is not particularly intuitive to remember to check in when taking part in an activity, watching a TV show, visiting a location. That is tough for marketers. Campaigns can now be as clever and innovative as they like. But it is not the campaign that makes us check in, it is the activity. Marketers can’t control that, and that’s a hard sell.

Secondly, it is impossible for users to be aware of all campaigns based around a certain activity or location. I cannot expect to know what offers are available around a shopping centre in a city I’ve never visited. For me to become aware of them, I should have to want to check in without knowing what may or may not be at the other end of the check in. In other words, the casual check in has to be part of my routine. This is where Foursquare’s game theory works. By rewarding the casual check in which doesn’t necessarily have any initial commercial significance, they allow campaigns to be discovered on an ad hoc basis.

This is my big gripe with Facebook Places right now. Even as a fan of location based networks, this is why I don’t use it. It doesn’t offer me any incentive for the casual check in. If today’s news that Facebook will only offer the Deals platform to organisations with a $50,000 budget is true, I can’t see how Facebook Places will encourage the casual check in, thereby offering little benefit to the SME businesses that will probably be just as important as the superbrands in helping the platform to grow at the local level.

How are others using check in based platforms? Do you casually check in without any incentive? Is game theory enough to entice the casual check in for you? Or do you not see any value in check based platforms. I’m keen for your views.


  1. This was a really interesting post. I've never heard of these new platforms like Foursquare but that name has cropped up about half a dozen times just today. I will have to check this out!

    Thanks for the great blog keep up the good work!

  2. Thanks for your feedback Jem.