Location, Location, Location

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Last week it was announced that the campaign to promote the launch of the new Cheryl Cole album would have a location-based element to it. People passing promotional billboards can "check in" to the billboards themselves on Facebook Places. On doing this they are taken to Cheryl Cole's Facebook page where they get the chance to win tickets to one of the live X-Factor shows that she features on.

Solo artist James Blunt also used Facebook Places for the launch of his latest album. Those who attended the London launch party of were given three free track downloads if they checked into the venue using Places. The fact that check-ins are posted to the users Facebook wall means that the companies, or in this case artists, will receive a free endorsement from those who check in. These examples along with a handful of others from companies such as Dominos Pizza, Starbucks and Jimmy Choo who have all previously run Foursquare campaigns, seem to indicate that UK companies are becoming more confident in utilising location-networking for marketing purposes, a procedure that has become common practise in America.

Location-based networking has become increasingly popular over the last 2 years. Foursquare, the kings of location before the launch of Facebook Places, announced last week that they now have over 4million registered users, just 50 days after signing up their 3millionth user, and are currently growing at a rate of 20,000 users a days. Competitors SCVNGR also announced last week that they had passed the 500,000 user mark, and expected to reach 1million users by Christmas, an impressive achievement for a company that only released its iPhone and Android apps 5 months ago.

Both Foursquare and SCVNGR allow users to check in to physical locations and then post their locations to Facebook and Twitter. They also allow business owners to claim their venues and offer special promotions to people who check in there. Foursquare awards people badges for checking into special locations, and grants the person who checks into any given location the most times in a 60 day moving window mayoral status, which can entitle them to an exclusive promotion. Foursquare has already been used in a number of high profile campaigns that include Starbucks, McDonalds, and HBO. Last week Foursquare received its first check in from space, as well as offering a special badge to people who checked in when voting in the recent American mid-term elections. SCVNGR allows individuals to accumulate points in a given venue by completing special challenges which are set by the venue owner, or the people who check in most often, it also allows businesses to offer people who complete the challenges a special promotion once they have collected a certain number of points. SCVNGR too has been used by a number of big names including Warner Bros, Sony, Harvard University and the U.S. Navy.

Both Foursquare and SCVNGR have integrated with Facebook Places, which on its own currently offers little when compared to the competition, it is however linked to Facebook's 500million user base which has lead many to predict that Places will become the new king of location, and in time the other companies will be forced to operate as an add-ons to Places. The use of location based social networking for marketing purposes has seen a slow uptake in the UK compared with America. However, as mentioned earlier companies do seem to be becoming more confident with the technology. The business applications of the various location-based networking companies are obvious for retailers who have a physical location that people can check into, however both James Blunt and now Cheryl Cole have demonstrated that it can also be used to promote an event, such as an album launch. It remains to be seen how the UK public will react to a major campaign that uses location-based networking, but if it receives anything similar to the reception that it got in America, we can expect to see many more campaigns using this technology in the future.

Paul Shepherd

I've worked in digital communications for around 15 years, and specialised in social media for the past three. Passionate about new technologies, media, and the impact it has on businesses bottom line, I try to bring that passion to every campaign for every brand we work with.