Take your friends with you everywhere – the social benefits of ‘checking-in’

The prospect of offers and discounts from venues is reguarly cited as being the main incentive to ‘checking-in’ to services such as Foursquare and Facebook Places. However, there are various social benefits that are emerging as key reasons for checking-in, and this is arguably why there are people repeatedly checking into venues that do not reward the behaviour.

Many of the most popular places that people check-in to are inherently social – restaurants, bars, sporting venues. And checking into TV shows and films on GetGlue currently has little other value. Rewards are the top reason, but 33% of early adopters cite ‘meeting up with friends’ as a reason for sharing their location.

So, what social benefits does checking-in and more broadly, location sharing, bring? There are four key benefits I can identify:

1) Real-time feedback

Checking-in allows you to share something in context quickly and easily and get real-time feedback. Innovative retail brands have recognised this benefit and have used indirect methods of check-in to allow customers to do this. Macy’s Magic Mirror allowed customers to ‘try on’ outfits virtually in-store via a full-size multi-touch mirror then share directly to Facebook for feedback from their friends.

Diesel have used QR codes to allow customers in-store to share directly to Facebook and ‘like’ items by simply scanning.

2) Shared experience

One of the benefits to checking-in is that you can instantly give context to your situation, see other friends nearby or watching the same TV show as you and share opinions and conversation. Entertainment check-in is creeping up behind the location check-in as a new trend. Seeing what your friends are watching can inspire interest in a new show or film. Using a hashtag on Twitter is an indirect way of checking-in to something you are watching on TV and suddenly makes it into a shared experience with anyone else using the hashtag. BBC’s Question Time has been quick to take this on board and actively promote their hashtag live, streaming tweets via the red button service and retweeting to encourage conversation.

An area yet to be explored that I’ve previously blogged about is the idea of creating iPad apps to complement TV shows. The MyTVBuddy turned the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest into a shared experience. Users who downloaded the app and ‘checked-in’ could chat with other fans across Europe as well as seeing feeds from Facebook and Twitter.

3) Socialising

It may seem obvious, but sharing your location allows you to tell all your friends in one action where you are and what you’re doing. It’s an open invite to join in. It creates new possibilities for unplanned nights out with friends who were in a nearby bar when you checked in and allowed you to meet up. It can also create more thoughtful interactions between friends. Seeing that a friend has checked into a bar signals that it may not be the best time to ring for a heart-to-heart chat, whereas checking in a home does the opposite. It gives to the virtual world what the first few seconds of a phone call gives – context – and the more astute friends will use this to adapt their interactions with you.

Leaving recommendations and tips at venues that they’ve checked into means that your friends can help you make choices long after they’ve been there.

Some check-in apps, such as Whatser, are created with the intention of allowing people to find others nearby with similar interests and create new friendships.

4) Supporting altruistic behaviour

Leaving recommendations and tips against venues, answering questions posed by strangers – these are all examples of altrusitic behaviour available when checking-in. The app Quipster makes adding recommendations and tips a reason for checking-in and integrates the two more closely than Foursquare where it is more of an afterthought. The app Loqly is created with the sole purpose of allowing users who check-in to pose and answer questions to those nearby with the intention of giving more relevant and useful responses as a result.

Ultimately, checking-in allows you to take your friends with you wherever you go – to get feedback, share interests, help each other out and blur the digital world with the real one when you meet up as a result of a check-in.
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