Location based games and applications like FourSquare and Gowalla are hot topics right now.
|Checking in on Gowalla|
Players use their mobile phones to check in at various locations to share recommendations with each other, to find friends who happen to be nearby, and to compete with each other.
To get a real sense of how mobile and local technologies can converge for urban folks, read Jeff Jarvis’ Mobile=local.
Using my smartphone’s GPS and maps—or using Google Googles to simply take a picture of, say, a club on the corner—I can ask the web what it knows about that place. Are any of my friends there now? (Foursquare or Gowalla or soon Facebook and Twitter and Google Buzz could tell me.) Do my friends like the place? (Facebook and Yelp have the answer.) Show me pictures and video from inside (that’s just geo-tagged content from Flickr and YouTube). Show me government data on the place (any health violations or arrests? Everyblock has that). What band is playing there tonight? Let me hear them. Let me buy their music. What’s on the menu? What’s the most popular dish? Give me coupons and bargains. OK, now I’ll tell my friends (on Twitter and Facebook) that I’m there and they’ll follow.
Now, that same scenario makes less sense in a small town. We just don’t need that kind of location data. We already know what all the local restaurants are like. There are only four, and we’ve eaten at all of them this week. (Sad, but true.)
Except there is one reason that all that local data makes sense for small towns: tourism. Your visitors don’t know every club and restaurant. They want your recommendations. They’d like to see photos before they ever step foot inside. They don’t know how to tell if that little diner is a wonderful dive, or a hideous pit, without some reviews on UrbanSpoon, etc.
|My rural location-based experience.|
So, even though you may not want to play FourSquare because you’d be the only person in your county (like me), it makes sense to add your local data to many local applications for the convenience of your visitors.
Thank you to Cory Miller for pointing out Jeff’s article, and then asking me to think about the rural implications.
How can you take this idea further?
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I’ve not paid serious attention to FourSquare — until now. My ignorance of FourSquare may show with this question, but do you think visitors will trust the information I share if I’m the only participant — especially if they don’t have a prior relationship with me?
Becky McCray says
Mike, I think they would, but here are a couple other points. FourSquare is just one service. Look over all those services the Jeff Jarvis mentioned. You want an army of local folks participating. If we could convince all our local Facebookers to share more info on other services, we’d have our army.
Nibby Priest says
Well said! One our our communities biggest problems is getting the word out of all the nice things we have here in http://www.hendersonky.org
This is a good blog in that it gives us a reason why we need to be active with location sharing games/social media for those that might visit and possibly make a home here.
Main Street Resident
James Laughlin says
Sorry, to say, but I don’t live in a small town (anymore). I often travel ‘though’ them, though, on my way to other big towns. And what the locals think is important would be so valuable to me as a traveler.
Imagine this: I’m on my way to Dallas for a convention and it’s lunchtime. As I’m hurtling down the Interstate, I ask my passenger (because I would never do this while driving) to find us a place to eat.
With foursquare/urbanspoon/yelp at our fingertips we are able to find a BBQ place that the locals swear by…three towns away. No problem, we decide, We can drive for another 30 minutes for good grub. The only alternative, it seems, is the McDonalds at that rest stop over there (shiver).
But what we missed is that 5 minutes away from where we are now is a Taqueria that was featured on the Food Network. It has won numerous awards and is widely regarded as the best greasy spoon Mexican food in the region. Right next door is a great local ice cream shop that makes a killer Dutch Chocolate (I looooooove Dutch Chocolate).
They blew it. The locals weren’t talking up the place online, so we missed it. We got good food. We were happy with it, but the locals lost out on an opportunity to promote their local hot spot, and I never found the ice cream parlor that would have become my new favorite. I would have told everyone I know about this new jewel that I uncovered tucked away in a dusty corner of Central Texas. Now it’s lost forever.
Ok, so that’s a little dramatic. But the concept is sound. Route 66 is no longer. People want to get where they’re going, and you have to be prepared when they’re ready to stop. These apps can provide real revenue to your tucked away jewel of a town.
Lara Dickson says
This is something any Chamber or CVB can encourage with their members – the more biz’ on board with location apps, the more action-packed or diverse a region can appear, maybe?
I am finding this discussion so very interesting because when we travel we like to stop at local places. However, seldom use cell phone, never had a smart phone. I do use computer and CVB guides to find good places ahead of time. So please all small business owners, remember to update Websites, CVB brochures as well as all the new gadgets. Many of my elder generation folks spend money traveling. In my case, too much sometimes.
Patsy Terrell says
I live in a town of 50,000 and I think for awhile I was the only person using foursquare. Regardless of the size of your town, make use of the tools you have available – and this is another one. I love to find the local spots when travelling, but it can be a real struggle to do that. Make it easier for me to come and give you my disposable income, and to blog about it, and to share it on Facebook and Twitter. Please, make it easier.
Real Life Sarah says
Awesome points, Becky! I am one of very few FourSquare users in my local area, but I have been adding as many venues as I can. My Facebook Friends have asked about Foursquare and some have started using it. I’d like to see more visitors from larger cities checking in and looking around to see what’s here!
I’m still learning all the ins and outs of Foursquare, but it looks so promising for local businesses!
I’m with you on the develop an army, but fear we won’t be able to raise the critical mass of an army because our low population. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. I’ve wanted to make the time for FourSquare. Now you and others have convinced me I have to do it.
BTW, last Thursday I helped our local coffee shop, High Grounds get started with their Facebook Page , and response by their fans has been incredible. People are showering them with love. It’s so amazing, I can’t postpone bragging until Friday.
Becky McCray says
Mike, you’ve answered your own concern: your army is already there – but they are on Facebook. It’s a matter of getting them engaged in the other tools. (And you use Facebook to do it.)
Becky McCray says
By the way, in today’s “Help a Reporter Out” email is a request for towns who are using Foursquare for tourism promotion to be in a feature article. How’s that for cool?
Richard Posey says
This post is exactly what I needed today. Thanks, Becky!