Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
July 20, 201010:55 PM

The Myth Of Location

Why hasn't Foursquare and other location-aware platforms taken off?

Let's not dismiss the amazing growth that online platforms like Foursquare have had, but they certainly do not have the mass adoption trajectory or passionate users like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. So, what gives? Didn't us Marketers (and yes, I am lumping myself into this group) all think that location-aware goodness (and the ability to send a targeted message to someone who is physically close to whatever it is that you're selling) was the last mile of Marketing?

Location may be the last mile that consumers are afraid of.

Foursquare doesn't work for a lot of people because allowing anybody to know where you are at any given time still seems creepy to most. Granted, the thought of posting all of your personal content (in text, images, audio and video) to the world like we do on Facebook and YouTube probably seemed a little crazy too just a few years back. All of this just furthers the notion that technology and connectivity continues to change and evolve at such a rapid rate that many people don't "jump in" simply because they can't/don't see the application in their daily lives.

Are we going to open up a lot more in the coming years or become more reclusive?

Most people see mobile and location-aware technology as something that the vast majority will open to and embrace, but we must also be prepared for a minor backlash of, "enough is enough" as people begin to realize that everything they do (and every place they go) is, essentially, being tracked, recorded and turned into some kind of data/trending tool. While brands may not use this information in a specific one-to-one way, this type of trending and data mining can still give off that same eerie feeling we get when we hear The Police classic, 'Every Breath You Take.'

We're watching you.

While the specific information (who you are, where you live, etc...) may still be hidden (ok, with location-aware platforms, where you live is there for the world to see), let's not forget how violated the masses felt when they started to understand what a cookie meant during an online session. People are, naturally, concerned about privacy and how their information is being used. The trouble is that the more these Social Media tools and channels evolve, the more we're creating a very fragmented culture of those who benefit by divulging all from those who may become the freaks and weirdo because they're not letting everything they do be tagged, uploaded and shared with the rest of the online populous. Think about how we frown upon those who refuse to join Facebook.

Just because they can, it doesn't mean that they will.

As exciting as location-aware is, Marketers need to get cautious and put the right levers in place today so that we don't blow this (and so that the government doesn't step in to regulate and police it as well). The opportunity is there to create real interactions with real human beings in a real and meaningful way. Historically, we haven't been great at getting this done right (think about spam, click fraud, telemarketing, etc...). Our culture of making people read the fine print and promoting offers that are subject to change hasn't helped either. For location-aware to truly take off, we need to put the consumer first... and they need to know (not feel) that they are in control of divulging their location, information and the types of messaging and people they would like to connect to. Otherwise, Marketing (advertising, communications and public relations) will lose out in the end.

It would be sad to see the world of Social Media, mobility and location never come to fruition because Marketers and the platform developers could not restrain ourselves from being intrusive, annoying and predatory. 

By Mitch Joel