Checking out check-in apps - what they are, why they're useful

Checking in on social networks is a way for users to announce where they are and/or what they’re doing to their audience. According to Wikipedia:

Many social networking services, such as FoursquareGoogle LatitudeGoogle+FacebookJiepangVK (social network)GowallaGetGlue and Brightkite, allow users to “check in” to a physical place and share their locations with their friends.[1]

Users can check in to a specific location by text messaging or by using a mobile application on a smartphone—the application will use the phone’s GPS to find the current location.

Have you ever checked in?

It’s common to hear people hesitate to use check-in apps because they don’t feel their friends will be interested in where they’re going and what they’re doing. Even more common is concerns about privacy, not wanting people to know where you are. Fortunately, we have answers to all of these concerns. And we can make a business case for using check-ins to give incentives to customers.

What exactly is a check-in?

Check-in apps are designed to let you tell your personal network where you are and what you’re doing at a particular moment. Generally this is done through a smart phone or tablet, but it can also be done on your computer.

Larger social networks like Google+ and Facebook will share check-in information with connections. Stand-alone apps like Foursquare and GetGlue give you the option of sharing to larger networks, such as Facebook, Twitter and others.

Why should I check in?

Adoption of check-in apps has been slow to take off. Many users don’t really understand why they are beneficial or don’t want to annoy friends. However, there are some compelling reasons to use check-ins:

1) Endorse a business or attraction that deserves it.

Acknowledge great service publicly, share it with friends and be the hero that points a friend to a place they need or want but didn’t even know it.

Help promote events as they happen with a quick check-in. It can raise awareness of the event for future dates.

Reinforce existing relationships with business owners or service providers you know and appreciate. It shows your loyalty and helps them gain new clients.

2) Incentives (a.k.a., free stuff/discounts)

Who doesn’t like a deal? Or a freebie!?

Quite a few businesses will offer check-in deals.  Incentives range from “10% off your bill”, to “free <insert product> on 5th check-in”, or “free coffee to person who most frequently checks in to this location”.

Will most users check-in without an incentive? Probably not. So advertise it in your place of business and make sure you include it in your business’s description in check-in apps.

3) Good information

When you check in to a location on certain apps, you can share tips on the establishment. This is a great way to find out about products and deals that are happening, or as a resource for what’s happening nearby.

4) Fun

Of course there’s an element of fun to it - if there wasn’t, no one would do it. It’s interesting to see where people are going and hear what they thought about it. 

Staying safe while using check-in apps

While everything we’ve stated above creates solid reasons for using check-in apps, it’s important to be safe while you’re checking in:

Don’t check-in everywhere you go. If you limit the number of check-ins each week and the type of check-ins, you won’t inadvertently give someone a roadmap of your weekly routine.

Don’t check-in to places that reveal too much personal information. Examples include your children’s school, the local park, work and your house. 

Do you use check-in apps? If not, does the possibility of incentives make them more compelling?