Location and Social Media: Your Location Matters, It Matters Not
Location, location, location. It’s the mantra for determining how many bucks you’re going to shell out for your new dream home, but how much does where you are in space really matter in the social media world? I propose that it matters a lot, and it matters not a bit. Simultaneously.
Much has been written about check-in applications such as Foursquare, Gowalla, and Facebook Places. Although people using these services still constitute a very small minority, perhaps due to privacy concerns, the combination of location-based services with smart phones has enabled a growth in location-based marketing. I think we’re really just at the beginning of this trend, and we’ll see lots more of this.
Luckily, it won’t all be advertising. Apple actually announced in 2010 that iPhone apps won’t be allowed to access GPS capabilities for just advertising. The company stated that the app must provide beneficial information, and “if your app uses location-based information primarily to enable mobile advertisers to deliver targeted ads based on a user’s location, your app will be returned to you by the App Store Review Team for modification…”
Say what you will about Apple’s heavy-handed app-store practices, but this is one time I’m glad they’re being tough. However, even without this dictum, I think we would’ve seen many more location-based practices that went beyond marketing and advertising as start-up companies pushed the envelope of what was possible to be first out with The Next Big Thing.
As more and more people swap out their old-school phones for smart phones, we’ll see many other interesting uses for location. For instance, locaii lets people start conversations around places. And Tackable, a social network for news, enables people on the ground to post photos—and eventually text, audio, and video—from places where news is occurring.
Then there’s the combination of hyperlocal news sites like Patch with a mobile distribution method like Twitter. I hadn’t been sure how useful Patch really was until last week when I found out from the Twitter feed of my neighborhood Patch reporter that a dead body had just been found a few blocks from my house. Powerful stuff.
Ultimately, as Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley believes, we’re just at the very infancy of location-based services, applications, news, and so forth. Or, in my words, check-ins are to the future of location as Friendster was to Facebook.
It Matters Not
Forget commerce–Thomas Friedman is right about the world being flat because I’m playing Scrabble with my friend in India. I’m also playing with friends in Switzerland, California, and Washington State.
I’d previously avoided Words With Friends because I knew I’d get addicted. Turns out I was right. This week I fell prey when it became the hot thing amongst my group of Internet friends. So now I have six Scrabble games going at once. (I only invited two of them, I swear!)
Words With Friends and its sister Chess With Friends are powerful because they combine three super-hot trends right now: social, mobile, and gaming. Try them—I dare you to not get addicted.
You may think this example is trivial, but it illustrates a point I first made back in 2003: Place no longer matters.
In an article I wrote for the training magazine I worked for, I said:
“Once upon a time, long long ago, there was a concept called place. If you wanted to see your mother, learn from your teacher, or talk to your friend, you had to be in the same place as they were. Any distance, whether meters or miles, yards or kilometers, was a major obstacle to communication, collaboration, and learning.
Then came the telegraph and the telephone, fax machines and email, and place became steadily more irrelevant. Now, with the advent of videoconferencing, collaboration software, the Internet2, and other technologies, the idea of place is being replaced. “
Now, that’s happening again with social media and social games. My former classmate in India who’s neck-and-neck with me on Scrabble is on Facebook all the time. I see her pictures, status updates, comments, and it feels like she’s just around the block. I haven’t yet, but if I wanted to I could Google video-chat or Skype with her to even see her face, the room she’s staying in, the friends she’s hanging out with, etc. live.
In addition, I sometimes play poker on Facebook with people from all over the world. And I previously wrote about the online forum in which I’ve made what are likely lifelong friends scattered across the country and globe. I talk to them frequently, but the majority I have never met in person.
So I posit, it truly doesn’t matter where we’re physically located anymore. Except when it does.
Does our location matter? Yes, and no. The important thing is that now we can choose whether, and when, it matters to us.
(Assuming privacy controls continue to keep that choice in our hands).
For more social media and technology tidbits, follow me on Twitter: @evakl.
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