Geolocation: Foursquare, Gowalla, Music & You

(UPDATED) This guest post by Scott Perry comes from his free and fabulous New Music Tipsheet weekly newsletter and site.

Check out this video, which illustrates hourly check-ins on Gowalla (orange) and Foursquare (blue) during SXSW interactive, just to show you how real geolocation services are.

I also want to note that personally, for as many times that I checked into spots during SXSW, I have not even touched my Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook, or Twitter accounts since Austin. Nor have a lot of my friends. Why is that? 1) because we’re all too damn busy to be overly social right now, and 2) there is little defined benefit for participating in mundane practices.

SXSW Interactive Checkin Visualization from SimpleGeo Inc. on Vimeo

Why Care?

If given the proper incentive to participate, consumers WILL join the crowd. Every time anyone checks in at an event, fans a product, or tweets a message, they are giving their own personal endorsement of that thing – whether to show their approval (or disapproval) of the item, to use the item as an expression of their identity, to gain approval and recognition from their peer group, or to join the crowd for mutually beneficial pleasure.

Now that I’ve gotten all Malcolm Gladwell on your ass, I know you’re asking HOW DOES THIS AFFECT MY BUSINESS? Well, take into consideration the growth in adoption of geolocation services like Gowalla and Foursquare, as well as the potential of geolocation via Twitter and Facebook. And then get an understanding of WHY people choose to check in and HOW you can get them to check in to your event (store, venue, etc.).

Give Them A Reason

Lure in fans with discounts & specials. Offer a Foursquare badge if a fan checks in to 5 of your shows. Offer a free CD sampler at your record store if someone checks into the bookstore next door via Gowalla. Use Goldstar to juice ticket sales. Try Groupon to offer tickets to a flash concert in Chicago, New York, LA, and San Francisco if you get enough people to buy your CD for $8. Tap Topspin and CultureJam to send out free MP3s.

Do what you have to do to goose some type of action, but ultimately, you have to provide the EXPERIENCE that makes people WANT to talk about you after the incentive has been redeemed. So don’t just focus on the PROMOTION; be sure to offer the tools to build the RELATIONSHIP.

Understand Their World

Check-ins on Gowalla & Foursquare and postings to Facebook, Twitter, flickr, etc. all depend on IDENTITY and COMMUNITY. I am a fan of this band. I like going to this venue. I enjoy knowing that I am sharing this moment with fellow fans. I want my friends to see how much fun I am having. Here is a picture of me and my wife melting faces at My Morning Jacket at the Greek. Check out this flash disco party around James Murphy’s impromptu DJ set from a flatbed truck next to the ticket line at Coachella.  Here is a video I just posted on YouTube of Beck playing an acoustic set at an art gallery, to which I was cool enough / lucky enough to be invited. I am hopping on Gowalla right now to post a picture and to see the 50 other people who checked in to this Minus the Bear Record Store Day show at Sonic Boom.

You get the idea – understand your place in your fans' worlds, empower them to take whatever action on whatever platform available to promote you, to telegraph that digital postcard to their peers. And wherever possible, wrangle all that tagged content together onto your site as a shoutback to your fans for talking you up.

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