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Checking In on Checking In

A unique concept bridging social networking and location-based marketing, check-in applications have become one of the most prominent trends in marketing. A few years ago, the first round of mobile check-in apps hit the market, spurring the excitement for this technology. By allowing users to announce their presence at a restaurant, bar, or event venue and earn badges and achievements, these apps were a fun way to find and connect with friends.

It did not take long for advertisers to realize the potential of these platforms to reach users with location-based marketing opportunities, and the check-in app market experienced a significant shift. For many users, these apps have now become all about the “gimmie.” Consumers are demanding more than just a place in a ‘leaderboard;’ instant deals, coupons, and prizes are far more attractive and more effective in creating new customers.

The principal player in the check-in app market, Foursquare, recently rebranded to facilitate more social interaction on the app and the site, in line with the preferences of its users. As a result, the company’s level of user engagement has been amplified, adding value for businesses and advertisers as well.

Google also took notice of the shift, eliminating its underperforming Google Places and choosing to integrate check-in functionality on its budding social network, Google+. Calling the new service Google+ Local, the tech giant hopes to spin the momentum of the check-in trend to build popularity with the

Now, check-in features have spread to other platforms. Facebook and Twitter, among others, are in the competition, offering optional location based services that help personalize user experience on the sites. Adoption has been fairly slow, but as always, there is incentive for members to connect with their networks on a local level.

Where is this trend headed? Some are concerned that advertisers will have an extremely close pin on where a consumer is at any time, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As is the case with all location-based services, users must first opt-in, protecting them from undesired monitoring. Still, as social networks manage to better target the extensive user bases, a massive amount of data is being gathered that is extremely useful to marketers in offering products and services in line with consumer wants. For many consumers and advertisers alike, the proliferation of check-in apps may just be the key to more mutually beneficial relationships.

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