Geography & Location-Based Apps: A Sales Perspective

I’ve been using several geo-based Apps on an iPhone 4S and trying to think through how they could be made more useful in traditional sales and marketing areas.  I manage a team that sells high end industrial machinery to traditional businesses that are not heavy users of Twitter, FB, G+ or other conventional social media applications.  Personally, I use Google Latitude to share location with family and serve as memory-recall to help remember where I was.  4Square is useful for seeing if friends or contacts are nearby and getting recommendations when traveling; it suffers from a narrower contact list than would be desired in a commercial setting.

Apps I’ve I’ve looked at:

Google Latitude and Foursquare have value; Sonar has a *lot* of potential.

  1. Google Latitude (“GL” or Latitude): This is Google’s location based product.  It tracks where you are at all times and allows some version of that to be shared (either to the public, G+ users or select friends).  I use it to share my location at all times with my close family.  Sharing is set up to be 100% reciprocal, however, it can be modified.
  2. Four Square (“4s”): This is an independent software vendor that provides a downloadable app for the iPhone that allows easy sharing via Facebook or Twitter.  4Square allows you to share one-time usage and location information whenever you check-in (Latitude allows the same check-in capability).  You can friend users on 4Square and sharing here is also reciprocal.
  3. Facebook.  Facebook has a geographic sharing capability as part of its posts that lets you identify near by friends as well as your current location.  Facebook has the benefit (for me) of being where I have most of my contacts (other than LinkedIn).
  4. Sonar.  Sonar is an app that follows your Twitter followers, LinkedIn contacts and Facebook friends.  It will tell you who is nearby when you are in a location, as well as second-degree contacts; friends-of-friends.  It is a newer app, but has some real potential.
  5. Garmin.  This is the iOS app version of a traditional Garmin GPS unit.  If you’ve used one of their products, then you would instinctively know how to use this unit.  It is a good product and has the software of a high-end unit.  This allows tracking of past locations and does a good job of pulling in your iPhone contacts.
  6. Others (Find-my-friends) and Google Maps.  Find-my-Friends is Apple’s iDevice-iDevice location sharing app.  Nothing fancy, and it’s universe of potential users is the smallest, making it not terribly useful.  Google Maps is the built-in mapping device installed on the iDevices; it serves as the base material for all Google mapping apps.  It has no social component.

Most common and useful features:

    • Location awareness and frequency
      Persistence Single Instance
      Location Tracking Latitude has this as does the Garmin for iPhone app.  This allows you to see where you were, when driving, etc. in the past. This is accessed by the use of a ‘Check-in’ and is possible on both 4Square and Latitude, although 4s’s location library (below) is much larger).
      Location Sharing Latitude allows you to share with others where it thinks you are (or where you are telling it you are) at all times.  Apple’s FMF also allows this. Only check-ins are allowed to be shared.  Others can see when you most recently completed this activity.
    • Contact list: Latitude does a good job of encouraging you to share with others and showing other Latitude users; it is easy to see how this will fit into G+’s long term ambitions and I expect it will be promoted more over the coming years.  4Square can be given access to Facebook, which is useful, as well as other traditional sources of contact library.  Here, FB actually has a real advantage.  My list of friends on FB is the largest, however they are much less frequent users of geographic services.

      Geography on Facebook: Lots of Contacts, Few Check-ins

    • Monetization.  I’ve never received any kind of compensation for using Google Latitude.  I know they promote coupons, etc., but it has never happened.  I estimate that in a few months of use, I’ve received about ~$60 in value from discounts (237 check-ins, so $0.25 approximate value), free goods and Amex points from using 4Square.  No question which has been more valuable here.
    • Google Latitude and Foursquare had similar commercial location libraries; Foursquare's recommendations were more valuable.

      Location library – count and types:  Latitude only allows you to check in to ‘Google Approved Locations.’  If you’ve used Google Maps any or done similar advertising, you can own a location and promote it via that system.  Google starts with this as its framework for Location curation.  4Square and FB, on the other hand, allow locations to be created by users.  On 4Square it is common to see historical sites, residences, etc.  Google starts with an orientation of selling to a business, the others start with what would be interesting to an individual (business owner or not).

    • Location library – information and detail.  A Latitude location is more likely to have a rating (Google Maps’ 5-star system), address and contact information, however most commercial entities for 4Square also have all of this detail.  This is a generalization, but I tend to find the 4Square commentary more valuable, as it is much more probable that  the people have visited the actual location.  Many of the Latitude rec’s come from Google Maps data.

Example of Google Latitude's Dashboard (Like everything from Google, it is in Beta).

  • Dashboard.  Google’s Dashboard is good for a professional user who wants to track their location history (this fits me very well).  4Square is more focused on showing what badges you have unlocked and what your fictitious score is.
  • API / Widgets:  I’m not a developer and can’t give a refined argument one way or the other here.
  • Foursquare promotes usage through badges, points, etc.

    Game-i-fication.  4Square gives you points for doing all kinds of things; they attempt to encourage use of their method and benchmark you against your friend-list.  Google has tried to do similar with its rating of how well you know a place.  Check in a few times and move from visitor to regular.  Continue to check and become a guru of a location (no single mayors like 4Square).

  • Creepiness.  4Square has worked to make itself socially acceptable, although several of my friends in the SE US still tell me that it should not be used as it will allow people to know I am out and break into my home.  Fair enough.  If you show anyone Google Latitude they will immediately remark, “That is creepy.”  There is no way around it.  I like that my family can immediately know where I am and vice-versa; that does come with some creepiness penalty.  (I would be interested to know how many people actually use the Latitude badges to put that out in the public domain on a website – my bet is not many.)
  • Use methods.  Latitude is good as a form of memory augmentation for those who travel a lot or for those who value precision in remembering where they were.  4Square is good for staying in touch with friends and it has a useful social recommendation engine which has proved valuable.

About flybrand1976

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