Getting Started on Location-based Social Marketing for your Organization

Location-based Social Networks (LSNs) have become increasingly popular as of late thanks to the rapid development of social media platforms and their integration with other technology. Fundamental technologies that support LSNs include Global Positioning System (GPS), which was developed in 1973, and mobile devices, such as smartphones, which have both independently become common to the modern day technology user for quite some time. Foursquare and Loopt were initially the two most popular locational-based social apps to package both of these technologies together, allowing users to take advantage of their GPS-enabled smartphones by "checking in" at various locations they visited. This functionality was quickly adopted by other social media giants. Now, on a variety of different social media platforms, users can view where their friends are, or search for nearby places of interest. Almost all social media giants, such as Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and Instagram, have a location "check-in" feature. 

The use of this combined technology has become a mainstream among smartphone users only in the past few years. In fact, back in 2010, only 4% of all Internet users used a service such as Foursquare or Gowalla to share their location with their social networks (Pew Research Center). Today, “90% of people use the location services function on their smartphones” and enable their “location share” function on social media platforms (Geo-Marketing). Additionally, according to the Pew’s survey, “one in ten smartphone owners have used a geo-social (“check in”) service (Pew Research Center)”. Because nearly 153 million adults are using smartphones(according to the Pew’s finding and eMarketer’s survey), this indicates that nearly 4%of US adults are “checking in” on social media.

LSNs provide a plethora of simple and often free marketing features that organizations should take advantage of. Based on the Entrepreneur’s findings, “75% believe location based marketing is an important element to their business strategy in 2016.” For instance, for each location on social media, check-in functionality provides a digital picture wall that allows others to see what is happening at that space, a way to easily promote both organizations on the whole as well as specific events. There are many useful location-based tools available, each providing a variety of benefits:

However, although there are more choices and tools available today than ever before, locational-based social media marketing has not yet become industry standard, especially for small businesses and non-profit organizations. Upon examination of some key arts organizations' social media pages and the locational “check-in”function on some platforms, we found that many organizations have far more followers than check-ins on the same social media platform, indicating the under-utilization of the check-in feature (see chart below).

Organizations that do not use check-in and other LSN features to their full advantage are missing out an array of important benefits that can set them behind competitors:

For arts organizations, adopting the tools mentioned above and paying more attention to the locational social data can be easy, yet the process of analyzing the data and applying to it to marketing strategy requires more effort. Stay tuned for a more in-depth look at the various LSN apps available, the 5 benefits arts organizations should expect for utilizing "check-in" functionality, and some successful results of organizations who used these tools.