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Where Are You? We Know…

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Do you remember the book, 1984 by George Orwell? Written in 1948, the book is about a totalitarian state where every citizen is under surveillance and the government knows exactly what they are doing all the time. That’s where the phrase “Big Brother is watching you” came from.

Although the government may not be watching every move we make, “Big Brother” is still a reality especially with location-based social networking sites or what they call geolocation sites.

These days, the most popular geolocation based site is Foursquare. It’s received a ton of publicity and notoriety among small and large businesses and retail stores. Foursquare’s biggest break was when Starbucks partnered with them to offer their customers badges every time they check in. Foursquare is also great with retail and restaurants. For example, every time someone checks in, they can receive a discount or a freebie from the location. This helps the location because everyone on the user’s network sees where he/she is at any given time, giving shops and restaurants an opportunity for free publicity.

I like Foursquare. I don’t use it all the time, only when I’m in interesting locations. I may use it more if where I check in offered me some type of discount or coupon code. (The other day, I was with an owner of a social media shop. We met at a local diner in New York City. As soon as we sat down, he pulled out his BlackBerry and checked in on Foursquare.)

There are many other location-based sites. Brightkite has been around since the early 2000s. They don’t offer coupons or discounts now, but I’m sure they will in the future. What is nice about Brightkite is that in a business sense, it gives you the opportunity to locate your sales people, staff or even clients, which could be helpful. One of my social media buddies was telling me that he was in Chicago at an art museum. He checked in on Brightkite and found that an old friend he hadn’t seen in a long time also checked in at the same location. After that, they met up, had lunch and were able to catch up!

Twitter has also added geolocation on its sites, which can be used for nightlife, discounts and more. What’s interesting is that you can turn it on or off while using Twitter.

In addition, Facebook plans to launch a geolocation site as well. There has been a lot of speculation as to what will happen to Foursquare when Facebook gets in on the action. There are rumors that Facebook will buy out Foursquare but at this point it’s all speculation.

The newest addition to the geolocation social networking sites is SCVNGR. This site is a little different than the others. It focuses more on gaming than some of the other sites.

Other notable geolocation social networking sites include Gowalla, which shows a detailed map of your location along with Looptstar, which also offers discounts and badges similar to the other social networking sites.

Are geolocation sites worth the time and effort? Although there are a lot of privacy issues with geolocation sites, small and large businesses (including retail stores and restaurants/bars) and non-profit organizations can reap the benefits by getting repeat business and offering incentives through these geolocation sites. In addition, they are great for consumers as well, especially if the user is offered an incentive from the location in which he/she visits.

Is “Big Brother” really watching you? Maybe, but you know what? These sites are fun and I think these sites will stick around for a while.

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About Hilary Topper