Three questions and the fourth dimension of LBS at SMB

I was chatting with Boston fixture Joselin Mane and LBS Elder Eric Leist at Social Media Breakfast (organized by the estimable Bob Collins) this morning while pondering the use of altitude information by Foursquare, we stumbled on an interesting question: Location Based Services know where you are (duh) but do they know what time it is when you're there? The answer is obviously yes, but the real question is are LBS using that information in any useful way?

Businesses want you to check in at their location to do all that brand and community stuff, but mainly they want to you buy things. Therefore, we reason, just like LBS would prefer not to let you check in if you're not really there, they should also not let you check in if the business is not open at that particular time*.

Eric mentioned some Foursquare promotions around sporting events and television shows that were only available for checkins during the time of the event or show, so the infrastructure probably exists.  The tough part is building the huge database of opening hours, holidays, emergency exceptions, private parties, etc.  On a side note, it's odd and frustrating that opening hours are so often hard or impossible to find on business websites.  What's up with that?

I'm sure there are better summaries of the event itself - notably the tweetstream - but I'll mention a couple of things here:

Bob introduced Ginger Lennon of SMB sponsor Racepoint Group and she made it known that they are hiring.  I initially misheard her name as Ginger Lemon.  I bet that happens to her a lot, but it's nice to know that companies are (a) hiring and (b) sponsoring Social Media Breakfast.

The impressive panel consisted of Sarah Armitay of MobextJohn Dobrowolski, VP of Fancy-Ass Titles at SCVNGR, and Nataly Kogan, VP of Consumer Experience at  There were three questions that were not asked of every presenter, but perhaps should have been, in addition to the always-appropriate, "how the heck are you going to make money??"

First, asked by Adam Zand, what are you doing or what could you be doing for Movember?

I'll take the liberty of generalizing to "how can LBS help with charity events that have no fixed place?"  I for one would be tempted to create a location called "my upper lip" for the purposes of Movember checkins, but I can see that being misunderstood.   I don't think any of the panelists quite got this one, maybe they didn't know enough about Movember or just didn't want to cop to having no idea.  No shame in saying "I don't know" if you ask me.

Next, asked by somebody whose name I neglected to note (please speak up if you read this), how does this play out for financial services companies?

Interesting in comparison to the first question.  How can LBS help businesses that are highly regulated, very concerned (I hope) with customer privacy, and sometimes not even doing business in physical space?  I'm not sure that I'd like to tweet "I just became the mayor of this ATM and now have lots of cash"   I think one answer here would have to be a tie-in to home mortgages, generally the largest financial transaction in your life.  But I also wonder if financial services are inherently anti-social or maybe just anti-location.  Not every fun and interesting social game concept is for every industry.

And thirdly, by No One You Know (on behalf of himself and several others), how are we supposed to let our tweenaged childen use this stuff?

The consensus was something like "you can't use our service unless you're 13" accompanied by some hand-waving about digital natives and parenting.  I'm not qualified to speak on behalf of tweens or their parents, but it sounds to me like this hasn't been quite figured out yet.  I'm confident that the nut will be cracked, not because anybody is worried about kid safety or privacy, but because tweens have disposable income and they're mobile.  The gravitational pull of that money is very, very powerful.

* Checking in at a business while it's closed in order to swipe the mayorship is a maneuver known as an Orli Perez. Especially if the business is a bakery. #justsayin

2 Responses

  1. Welcome back Mr. Duck. I can see the long term potential of LBS more than I can for other things. It just needs to be way, way easier and clearly figure out more of the privacy issues. Sorry to have missed you at SMB. Busy arranging furniture... Frank
  2. Just downloaded it on my iPhone and really like it! It looks like SCVNGR is SO much better than Foursquare simply because of the game dynamics that they've that are part of it. Now they just need to build up their user base because not a single person I know is using it. :( I'm guessing that Foursquare will simply add on some of the features that SCVNGR has so that they can compete.

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