The Evolving Check-In

Check-In to actively Spam

First Step: Shout Out About It (even if others don't care)

People keep pontificating on the “check-in”, and what it means for most people, whether it will be relevent enough to stick around, or if it will fall into shadow like so many past “darlings of the moment”.  Well… I commented first *HERE*, and saw that consumers might think they are *not* a winning proposition here, and even Read Write Web claimed the death of the Check-In in 2011, and it was supposed to be a simple sentence.  In fact, I started by saying, “Here, I will make this simple…”, which is not only a bit grandiose, but sort of pompous as well.  I will try to relate my opinion with logic, instead of emotion… but it is still just an opinion.  I am just sharing a few thoughts on LBS (Location Based Services).  I would love to know what you think?

Check-ins aren’t going away, for the time being, because they are part of vanity and branded narcissism. People brag, everyone else ignores accept for supplicants and giddy fanboys. Check Ins are part of the “ME” culture… the issue is whether or not they will ever be really important. Aggregate check-in data for business *IS* interesting, but carving the path to relevance may include suffering the thorns of droll personal information that acts as spam, or the hot air of arrogance that chokes our lungs. I see the network, overall, quieting down on Facebook because the content generators form powerful cliques who don’t notice everyone else hiding them or just not paying attention because looking at their wall is a rollcall of constant chattering. To most people *I* know on Facebook, Check-In’s are spam. So are events. So are causes. So are messages. It’s all spam, and people are really getting tired of it, so they’re checking their pages less, posting pics less.  In fact, Facebook has made so many personalization features to combat the fact that Facebook, in itself, is spam, that these features are beginning to erode the entire concept of community (as you know from my post about Eli’s Ted Talk here, and this PDF 2010 talk)  As to the FB Check-IN:

Facebook might not get why their check-in & places isn't what Foursquare is.

We all come with baggage, so do the young Geo Location Based Apps


Facebook people didn’t opt in to the “check in” feature so much as have it forced on them, while giddy users of foursquare opt-in, and are voracious users of the real world board game… because they chose to be part of it. For Facebook users, it’s just more of the painful grind of the “me”.  Another thing to deal with – ignore, respond to, or hide. Is it possible that people are tired of the “me me me” stage of 2.0, and a more social semantic web will wipe out the relevance of the combined GPS individual user info that we are talking about? When people get over the individual importance of their check-ins, the real importance of the process will be noted: it’s not about the people checking in, it’s the brands that have been checked in to. The marketing opportunity isn’t with the individuals themselves, and soon we will move past trying to find influencers vs simple nodes.  I like weak ties, personally.

Where people are isn’t as important as why they are there. The next stage is communing around the places, and understanding that the individual person is simply a node in a much vaster network (Know Your Role, Know Your Place). The individual check-ins are irrelevent. It’s the thing they’re checking into, or around, is what’s relevant, and that means the real world is marketing your business by default. It’s viral, and it’s not something you pro-actively manage other than to run a ethical, fantastic business.  You don’t market to these people checking in to your hotel or business…. they are already branded in some loose sense as they are there. If you are doing your job, they will love it…. and it’s the simple fact that aggregate social user info like reviews, coupled with aggregate (I love the word aggregate) location info – nothing to do with the individual – will simply build your brand.  Fire your marketing department.  I am joking.  Calm down. I saw the ops guys in the back clapping.

It's the aggregate user info, not the user, that is important.

The Swarm is what matters to marketers, while individual users matter to operations.

In fact, unless someone is famous or popular in some sense, the individual will have zero relevance, at least on a social network that isn’t a location based augmented reality app.  Famous people will give more credibility to places, events, etc… but for most of us little people, the future of our phones is that they just start clicking away when we are moving around (the issue is whether you will be able to opt-in to that, or opt-out of that?), and that aggregate data will be anonymously extrapolated to tell a story.  I know the privacy nonsense comes up again… I am all for individual privacy.  I just think it’s a red herring.  Kids these days… have traded privacy for notoriety.  We have traded privacy for apps that make us superhuman, in some senses. Read all about my privacy thoughts here.  Is the idea of volunteering endorsement of a brand that far fetched?  We do it every time we check in on Facebook or Foursquare, Gowalla, or any of the others endless check-in options.


Nothing like alienating a friend by checking in on 14 apps

Make sure to tag your friend with you, while you check-in, and ignore them.


I just can’t imagine individual user activity to be that important, where most of the time people see it as spam on Facebook.  I will post an informal test soon.  So I could see where it lapses. But the technology of recording or registering with locations will amplify, and that location data will aggregate to create a narrative about real world businesses, online.

I think they aren’t going away, but it’s certainly going to evolve and become something totally different. Active single user activity will alter and it will be more passive and automated.

But I am rambling.

Once we stop being so full of ourselves, the check in will take on a new role. Until then, we wear them as literal badges, as bragging rights. I am *HERE*. Look at me.  Like an expensive pair of jeans or some silly handbag.  I love trying to be mayor of my favorite hiking trails, so there I am, in nature, searching for a signal so I can let people know, “Wish you were here”.

It’s gonna be around for quite a bit, methinks.  Maybe we’ll be lucky enough (dry sarcasm) to simply have our credit cards automatically check us in when we are at the airport, or out to dinner.  Maybe currency will be your star rating, or an onsite review is added value to your bill for the restaurant, so you can have a real dialog with management about your experience and help the brand improve, and help manage it.  It’s going to evolve… it’s just how much it will scare us, and how we will want to respond to that, and control it.

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