Then and Now: Location-Based Social Media – Event Marketer

Then and Now: Location-Based Social Media – Event Marketer

Then and Now: Location-Based Social Media

In our new Then and Now series, EM revisits old event marketing trends to find out where they’ve gone since we first reported on them. Are they old hats and has-beens? Or is that past up-and-comer a future best practice that’s now an industry standard? In this installment, we re-examine location-based social media, which we first reported on in September 2004.

Now that the newness of Facebook and Twitter has worn off, savvy event marketers are looking for new ways to bring their fans and followers offline and into the real world. Foursquare, Gowalla and a few other location-based social media platforms are leading the way, but they all owe a debt of gratitude to the almost forgotten forerunner, Dodgeball, which was purchased by Google in 2005 and thereafter replaced by Google Latitude, which operates within almost all of Google’s mobile technology.

Location-based social media technologies like Foursquare and Gowalla invite users to broadcast their whereabouts to friends and family who follow them on Facebook and other social media sites. Similar to a tweet, a Foursquare or Gowalla message indicates that the user has “checked in” to a business or location. Gowalla also allows brands and consumers to post events on its website.

What We Said Then:
“Dodgeball is designed to help consumers meet up with friends and friends-of-friends while they are out. Totally viral, it’s an opt-in mode of communication that is real, mobile and perfect for many an event marketer. The wired crowd is referring to the service as ‘MoSoSo’ (mobile social software).”

In 2004, location-based social media technology was not too different from today’s. Participants registered their cell phones at and proceeded to text in their locations to the service. The phones’ built-in GPS was then tapped to find the latitude and longitude of fellow peeps, searching a 10-block radius. When a contact was found, the user got pinged. Pretty simple.

What We Know Now:
Since then, the idea has exploded into a juggernaut that represents a new breed of social media capable of delivering powerful, and in some cases immediate, ROI. IHG hotels, for example, has teamed up with Gowalla to reward loyal customers and capture a greater share of the national hospitality business through a check-in for rewards program. Starbucks this spring began rewarding Foursquare users who visit the retail chain with “Barista Badges” that kick in drink discounts after a certain number of check-ins. And new players are constantly popping up with new ideas, like, where sponsored scavenger hunts can earn brands new fans by offering consumers retail rewards.

“We’re still in the pioneer phase,” says Del Ross, vp-U.S. sales and marketing at IHG. “It’s going to allow us to hit travelers who will now have a greater incentive to stay with us more than once. It’s about getting a greater share of our existing customers’ stays.”

Where will location-based social media be in five more years? Keep reading and we’ll let you know.

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