Thursday Signal: Are You Checked In?

Today is all about checking in. Not so much driven by anything in today's news, but every week or so I'll just go off based on what's on my mind – driven by the news, to be sure, but also by the bricolage of a lot of inputs over…

Screen shot 2010-02-04 at 11.08.18 AM.png Today is all about checking in. Not so much driven by anything in today’s news, but every week or so I’ll just go off based on what’s on my mind – driven by the news, to be sure, but also by the bricolage of a lot of inputs over time.   

And over the past few weeks, I’ve been developing a thesis around the concept of “checking in.” Now for those of you not playing along at home, “checking in” is the terminology for “declaring where I am and what I’m doing through mobile devices and social media platforms.”

As usual, I’m a late bloomer in this new trend. I joined Foursquare, one of several check-in-based services, about a month ago. I’ve started checking in at work, the gym, various restaurants and local businesses. The service has a strong game element, with social capital earned for checking in, or doing more than one thing in a day, or unlocking action-based “badges,” or repeat check ins over time (Foursquare makes you “Mayor” of a location if you check in there the most. Competition amongst Foursquare nerds is pretty intense for those Mayorships.)

Other services that employ checking in include GoWalla, Yelp, and MyTown. Twitter is adding location services as we speak, which is just another way of saying it’ll support checking in shortly (although most check in services drive announcement tweets already).

And while it may not be clear as to why, I fully expect Google and Facebook to follow suit by enabling some kind of check-in behavior shortly.

Here’s why. To my mind, checking-in is simply another use case on the evolutionary path of search. As I said in the book, each search query is a declaration of intent – you are telling that search engine what you want, and hoping the engine will return a result that satisfies that declared intention.

Checking-in is a powerful new field in the database of intentions. It is a social declaration that “I am here” and, in a more nuanced way, “I am open to appropriate responses/conversations based on the fact that I am here.” Whereas search intent is clearly a request for a specific response, check-in intent is less specific – and hence more open.

I expect this to evolve quickly. I can imagine a time, and it ain’t far off, when we set our mobile devices to automatically check-in at our favorite places, and expect that that check-in will reward us with localized and personalized offers, discounts, and social capital of some sort or another. Furthermore, I expect we will soon expect that if we set our device to “discovery” mode, local businesses (and random strangers too) will be able to ping us with enticements and announcements of all kinds.

Instrumentation of this new social/local/mobile reality will be initially clumsy and fraught, but not for long. The use case is simply too compelling. It’s already happening in various ways – the Chipotle burrito app, the Polo store. Imagine what happens when McDonald’s adopts it? Game changer.


In other news:

Is Amazon Building a Superkindle? (NYT) Yes, it bought a multitouch technology company, and yes, it’s going to get fun out there in ApplevsAndroidvsAdobevsAmazonLand.

Snickers Uses Social Media, SEM to Support ‘Lead Spot’ in Super Bowl Ads (ClickZ) More proof that social marketing is platform independent/supportive.

He Calls Google A Vampire, But Mark Cuban’s Mahalo Is Doing The Sucking (SEL) Oh SNAP.

Unclear ROI Impedes Mobile Marketing (MarketingProfs) You want proof of ROI? It’s coming. BTW, it’s also already here in terms of higher CTRs, if that’s your thing….(as anyone at AdMob or Microsoft Mobile Ads will tell you).

The IAgency: How the IPad Will Change the Advertising Business (AdAge) Or: Why We Should Emulate the Dying Publishing Industry. Yes please…do.   

Mobile Internet Market to Eclipse Desktop Internet (Brian Solis) Anyone who saw Mary Meeker at Web 2 last year already knew this but it’s worth repeating…

Foursquare Plots Its Business Model (BI) Tick, tick, tick….BOOOOOM.

SlideShare Launches Channels for Businesses and Brands (Mashable)

7 thoughts on “Thursday Signal: Are You Checked In?”

  1. Nice insight, John! I am really pleased you see the power in these mere “games.”

    It is a brave new world, adding the database of actions to the database of intentions (equally fraught with privacy concerns, but perhaps equally powerful).

    Tied in with your social graph, interests, and search history, some variant of this location-based model will give people the knowledge and confidence increase their exploration and enjoyment of the world around them.

    Early days in this stuff of course, excited to be a part of it!

  2. John,

    Hate to say it but you are very early. No one is really using Foursquare and there are already 6 or 7 alternatives.

    But, we can always count on you to react to the fad du jour.

  3. Perhaps I’m simply being paranoid, but these are insane tools to use. Simply by seeing where you are, what you’re doing, and when you’re doing it gives a burglar the perfect opportunity to have a go at your home, safe in the knowledge that you’re not about to come home and surprise him.

    There is *no way* that I’d use one of these things.

  4. I agreed Bart’s point that some variant of this location-based model will give people the knowledge and confidence increase their exploration and enjoyment of the world around them, Thank you Perhaps~

  5. I love location-based services but understand that people are worried about using them, fore visitors to your stream are aware that you’re away from home.

    However, most people that have these worries are quite happy to post status updates that say “Having an awesome time on holiday with the kids” or “Going away for the weekend” – but then freak out when you’re actually linking this status update to a map of your actual location.

    Anyway, that aside, I’m a fan of Brightkite as well as Foursquare. I’m not quite sure one service has managed to nail it yet and get it completely right.

    The privacy options on Brightkite are great, though.

  6. To the people who have fear about the security: Try it out yourself. If you understand the location-based model, your fears will likely be calmed. After all, can’t one be paranoid and say “people can Google me and find my personal info!”

    The way these location-based products work is that:

    1) There has to be an explicit action by the user to declare their location. So if you don’t want people to know where you are, they won’t know.

    2) The only people notified are your friends. So if you’re afraid that your friends will break into your house while you’re out, then you have other issues to worry about.

    I thing going forward privacy will always be a top priority… but then this is the case for many technologies these days like photo sharing, social networking and even email. There’s no reason why location can’t be solved in the same ways.

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