Fostering Communities Through Geolocation


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This article, written by Vandana U, Editor, STQ, was published in issue 08 of the Social Technology Quarterly.
Summary: Geolocation posits newer ways for people to network, engage people beyond offering discounts and deals based on check-ins. Location-based technologies have the incredible potential to form and sustain meaningful

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Fostering Communities Through Geolocation

  1. 1. Fostering Communities through Geolocation Geolocation posits newer ways for people to network, engage people beyond offering discounts and deals based on check-ins. Location-based technologies have the incredible potential to form and sustain meaningful communities. by Vandana U. Communities
  2. 2. Kuliza Social Technology Quarterly Issue 08 47 We are always looking out for places. Be it the ones that are happening, the ones for a quiet holiday or the ones to buy. An immediate action is to check places friends have been to, have given great reviews, have checked-in upon visiting a place and are raving about it. The understanding of location based behaviour is simple: Every action is local! Shopping, hanging out and even taking part in community services: all actions happen within a certain radius. Brands and marketers have already begun to work around their campaigns, their promotions and strategies based on such information broadcasting. They are maximizing the effectiveness of their social outreach by tailoring and targeting messages based on location. It would not be exaggeration to state that almost every app and every site has embedded location. This spells an interesting convergence and divergence of spaces at the same time. While we wonder the world is only getting smaller, geolocation is widening spaces. As marketers leverage location data to learn more about customers’ needs and offer highly personalized experiences that is where it gets limited to. The question is, “What after a tweet, a status update and a check-in?” Considering actions tend to be mostly local, geolocation can be used beyond offering discounts and coupons. Apps such as Foursquare and Gowalla have incorporated game mechanics have recognized and continue to incentivize their most loyal brand advocates; all these are key components of the experience. However, building a strong community is perhaps the next best thing to offer after recommending more places for people to visit based on the analyses of their profiles. After all developing any application or providing newer experiences all target the same thing- loyalty. Building a strong community presence is directly proportionate to having a loyal community of buyers who love to talk about their brands and willingly spread word of mouth. If there can be apps to find love then how far can it be to foster development of communities? Translating geolocation presence into community-building presence There is a value proposition to a person checking-in at a location of a particular brand. One is looking for great deal, expecting some form of social interaction or further information. Brands need to offer targeted value propositions to their customers, complemented by a meaningful and engaged community that people are attracted to being part of. Nextdoor is a geolocation service based on networking within neighbourhoods. What is appealing is Nextdoor’s attempt at making a self- sufficient neighbourhood and promoting peaceful living. The app enables people to connect with nearby neighbourhoods, includes focus on creating a virtual neighbourhood watch to help fight crime in an area. Posts about a local break-in and other crime and safety issues are among the top two categories of things the app does. One great thing about the app is that neighbourhoods are encouraged to create their own social networks. These are private and restricted to only those who live in the designated areas. There is a verification process for users. Nextdoor CEO, Nirav Tolia talks about emerging behaviours, ones that go beyond finding great deals. These range from finding people to carpool, setting up a neighbourhood watch, borrowing something, finding babysitters, creating classified ads, and discussing community issues amongst those umpteen things one can do within a neighbourhood. The app is now available in 8,000 neighbourhoods in all 50 states of USA. The app goes on to prove the effectiveness of building a community of supporters and a clear benefit: the kind of relevance and support we seek when building or joining groups. From this perspective what sounds cool and at the same time is realistic is a community of life-saving super heroes. Turning intent into action,
  3. 3. PulsePoint app looks at creating a location based community of people trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and are willing to assist in case of an emergency. People are notified if someone nearby in a public place is having a cardiac emergency and may require CPR. The most significant aspect of the app is encouraging more people to be trained in CPR and thereby be of assistance and aid in cases of medical emergencies. The free app also notifies about the exact location of the nearest Automated External Defibrillator (AED). The app was originally developed and tested by the San Ramon Valley, California, Fire Protection District. Reported cases and incidents go on to illustrate the usefulness of merging location and technologies. Mobile users have real-time access to emergency activity as it is occurring. By providing locations on an interactive map, the app also notifies whether the emergency has caused a traffic tie-up so that people can plan an alternate route. The app hosts other sets of features and reported cases illustrate how this app has been successful so far in its public outreach. The app certainly changes perceptions about location-based apps being all about adding value to shopping alone. A mix of content, skills and location ultimately builds better connections than shallow endorsement based check-ins. What is required in the current scenario is the reinforcement of a belief that adding location into a social network is not only for enhance social connections but also to leverage the power of these connections to achieve greater goals. Engagement is the key word that drives social technologies. Building a community is perhaps the easier part. The real challenge is engaging the members of a community. More often people discuss problems in their areas and what better if an app can help people fix these problems. SeedSpeak built an iPhone app that helps engage people to be more civic-minded. Residents can call attention the areas that need fixing by creating “seeds” and post photos and locate other seeds and users. The motivating bit about building this app is the vision of it. It looks at being of use to nonprofits, advocacy groups and even to test how viable the chosen community projects are. Retha Hil, co- founder of SeedSpeak asserted, “If you can show there are people behind an idea or momentum and show it to officials in power you can make a difference.” There is a mix of virtual space and physical space. Geolocation platforms and apps are bridging social media and the physical world. No wonder the hype about geolocation a few years back still remains justified. Allowing a number of possibilities, geolocation technologies hold the potential to strengthen and
  4. 4. Kuliza Social Technology Quarterly Issue 08 sustain communities. As developments in data, mining existing networks for insights into customer behaviours and needs can give meaningful and useful information in order to generate ideas for appropriate location-based experiences. The words of Alistair Goodman, CEO, Placecast (location-based marketing company) sum up the purpose of this article, “Location and granular geo-targeting are actually strong predictors of consumer intent – because where someone is and when they are there says a lot about what they might be interested in.” Therefore while many location-based apps still rely on check-ins, others have gone on to utilize geolocation to spur more powerful actions. References Chaey,Christina.“Can Nextdoor Turn Your Neighbors Into A Billion-Dollar Social Network?” Fast Company.13 Feb 2013. “Enabling Citizen Superheroes.” PulsePoint. Ellis,Justin.“SeedSpeak:A geolocation app for better civic engagement.” Nieman Journalism Lab.24 Jan 2011. Butcher,Dan.“Location-based marketing can increase average order value,frequency, loyalty.” Mobile Marketer.29 Mar 2011. Photo Credit: Erik Daniel Drost