Ideas and opportunities in the location-based social media space

Earlier this week I was writing an article about real estate investing and the value of using location-based search and location-based social media for real estate investors.

As I was clicking around to link to relevant sites, I noticed something quite interesting: On the location-based social media side, only Foursquare survives as a strictly location-based social media. Two other sites — Gowalla and Loopt — both shut down in 2012:

In very short order, the race changed. There is a a big marathon of location-based social media and Foursquare, Gowalla, and Loopt were far ahead of the rest, with sites like Facebook and Twitter also offering some aspect of location-based social media as well.

But now Gowalla and Loopt are gone and Foursquare remains as the only real pure-play contender against “consolidated” social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. (And the other location-based social media sites are so far behind right now that they don’t really count).

One pure-play social media site that owns the industry right now. That’s a HUGE opportunity. So what’s going to happen next? All the elements are in place for new competitors to step up and do something exciting in the location-based social media space: Social media is hot, gamification is hot, EVERYONE has a smartphone now and that is driving change in mobile search and mobile marketing.

So I think the location-based social media space is ripe for MORE competitors not fewer.

8 OPPORTUNITIES IN THE LOCATION-BASED SOCIAL MEDIA SPACE

  1. Facebook has an opportunity to dominate this space by taking its geotagging up a level, perhaps by combining some of the concepts that Foursquare uses — like recommendations and lists based around the places you are visiting.
  2. Twitter has an opportunity to do what Facebook decided not to do — buy a location-based social media site and integrate it. Maybe people can tweet to check-in at locations, and businesses that are ‘registered’ with the location-based side of Twitter can auto-DM deals to the people who have checked in. (Hello! Possible revenue stream, Twitter).
  3. It seems to me like Groupon also has an opportunity to extend its reach by offering daily deals to people based on where they are. Groupon can offer more deals and customers who are at a specific location can take advantage of specific relevant deals rather than relying solely on whatever deals are offered that day.
  4. Yelp has a similar opportunity as Groupon to invest in a location-based social media site to leverage its database of reviews.
  5. What about a time management system that uses location based social media to prompt you to do stuff? (“Hey, you’re at work: Here’s a list of the things you need to do”). Foursquare does this to some degree but it’s not really that cool to check in at work or at home so you miss out on an opportunity to use lists in a meaningful way (and Foursquare’s list system is rudimentary to the point of barely being useful, IMO).
  6. Foursquare encourages check-ins and makes it possible for people to see who else is there but it’s not a communication tool like Twitter or Facebook. (You check in on Foursquare and then you text with the people who are there). So there’s an opportunity for existing communication platforms (Facebook and Twitter were mentioned but also texting platforms/smartphones/BBM/etc.) to leverage the location-based aspect to strengthen their service.
  7. There’s an opportunity here for the next big location-based social media to own whatever happens after check-in. Ordering? Shopping? Exploring? Working? Socializing? Oh, that reminds me of another idea…
  8. Paying. Location-based social media does not need to always be about checking-in. (Yeah, that’s a nice thing but there’s more). Mobile payments are on the horizon and this is an opportunity to help make that happen. So an opportunity to innovate in the location-based social media space might not be to create a new social media site but to find a way to safely integrate mobile payments into a location-based social media so that people who are all together in one place can all spend money at the same time. No, that’s not as weird as it sounds: People split the bills at restaurants all the time; churches take up offering and don’t always need to pass around a plate anymore; timeshares use a group-selling method; seminars can leverage the mass-buying phenomenon to encourage everyone to check-in and buy the “back-of-house” sale, musicians can offer special deals to people who are checked-in at a concert, etc.

When there’s only one pure-play company that is the clear forerunner in an industry, they have a huge target painted on their backs. And, from what I’ve observed, the risk isn’t from businesses that are doing similar things and are farther back in the race. Rather, the risk to those forerunners is from innovators who join the race late and do something surprising and different.

Watch out, Foursquare! Your competition may have disappeared for now but soon you’ll discover some new competitors and they WON’T be the ones you’re expecting.

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