The above stories are just a few quick illustrations of how the mobile and social worlds are continuing to merge in new and interesting ways around location-based services (LBS). As LBS adoption continues to spike (comScore notes that nearly 17 million US subscribers engaged in check-ins in March 2011 alone, and an Edison Research/Arbitron study found that 30% of smartphone users were now familiar with LBS) the cultural anthropologist in me started asking, “What is it about ‘checking in’ that is so compelling?”
As with all human behaviors, there is no simple answer, and behind the couple smartphone clicks that make up the observable reality lies an environment rich in social context. Paralleling successful mobile applications, the reasons for expanding use of LBS spreads across a continuum of user motivation that runs from play (i.e., wasting time/having fun) to utility (i.e., saving time/money, earning status). Some great reading of late from around the web (like this post from @stephenanderson) and around the world (like this pdf from Sweden’s Mobile Life Centre) spurred my creation of the following list of LBS archetypes (meant to be illustrative, not exhaustive or mutually exclusive):
The “trend setter” … takes pride in being the first of social group to begin using a new service or feature.
The “time killer” … looks to alleviate boredom or fill time using mobile apps such as LBS.
The “social surfer” … sees who else has checked in to a specific place, enjoys voyeuristic exploration of other user profiles.
The “mayor of players” … enthusiastically engages in competitive behaviors such as “mayorship battles”.
The “scavenger hunter” … looks to create a collection of experiences, badges and/or other artifacts.
The “status seeker” … only checks in to the “right places” and is concerned with maintaining and enhancing personal brand.
The “knowledge miner” … searches for the most recent or relevant information from LBS services to improve customer experience by gaining the knowledge of regular patrons.
The “do-gooder” … is incented to participate by a perception that their activities are having a positive impact on others, the planet, etc.
The “social seeker” … announces location in order to facilitate real-world interaction with friends or enable serendipitous interaction and connection with friends or strangers.
The “trip planner” … facilitates social bonding or group cohesion by using LBS to plan group outings.
The “life logger” … obsessively tracks life lists, captures past activities/personal or experiential history for pleasure or for “quantified self” programs.
The “discount hunter” … actively searches for location-based coupons/deals to save money.
A final wild card archetype to consider in this LBS tarot deck is the “privacy activist”, who is so concerned about privacy issues that overly promoted check-ins, push notifications etc. may cause negative sentiment or hostile or aversive behaviors that then are relayed to their social network – which is the exact opposite of the intended effect of any social campaign.
As with the tarot deck, each of these archetypes represents some elemental aspect of human behavior, and only combinations of cards provide the fullest picture of the complex web of motivations lying behind the check-in. (One LBS heavy user told me that, taking into account the many services he uses, he is reflected in every single one of these archetypes depending on the market niche and desired outcome.) Point is, in this age of games and group buying, marketers might be tempted to overfocus on competitive or deal-seeking behavior, and thus miss an opportunity get those with “do gooder” or “life logger” instincts over the barrier to sharing, which in turn provides less content for the knowledge miners and social surfers to consume, etc.
A strong focus on user experience is another key to any successful campaign. With LBS the crucial points of interaction happen within the (often locally-run) bricks and mortar world, so pains should be taken to provide consistent messaging and user experiences across both online (digital/social experiences) and offline (retail experiences), as well as other marketing channels, campaigns and collateral. Also, despite the spike in uptake described above, consumer familiarity with these services is still building, so simplicity and clarity of language, as well as some user education, can forestall cognitive dissonance (or worse, backlash).
Finally, marketers and strategists should realize that these campaigns need end-to-end operational support, otherwise “build it and they will come” may turn into “once you’ve lost them, they won’t come back”. Customer-facing personnel can become your superstar “social middlemen”, but only if they are empowered with knowledge of the latest/greatest social media programs and equipped with solid processes that are consistently applied, consumer-focused and scalable. This extension of the “hive mind” to the “front line” will ensure that the pains taken in strategy and design pay off in sustainable business value – no matter what future lies in the cards.
How about the novelty junkie? She doesn't care about being first just wants to try something different even if other social spheres do it all the time. Like going to the Broken Spoke for 2 steppin lessons. :-) important use of a randomness functionality in regards to suggestions. I do really enjoy the use of tarot cards as user stories. That would be a fun pitch deck to make! Cheers.
Novelty junkie will definitely make it into the final card deck. :) I also realized after posting that I didn't call out anything re: "trolls" and flame-throwing behavior as another archetype (like the "privacy activist") to design against. The Flaming Troll -- now that would be a great SoLoMo Tarot card to design...!
Oh that would totally work! Don't even get me started on the character sheets we could create with the different point systems and powers! ponder ponder...