Why you'll use Foursquare

If you avoid location services, or are even actively hostile toward them, I'm here to deliver some bad news

The U.K.'s Financial Times is planning a campaign on Foursquare that offers premium content to people who check in at various coffee shops near business schools. The idea is to hook business students on the Financial Times newspaper so that when they enter the business world, they'll want to be subscribers.

Six Flags Entertainment is really going nuts with the idea, offering a Foursquare "Six Flags Funatic Badge" and "Exit Pass" that lets users essentially cut in line for rides. The Mayor of each Six Flags park will win a free pass for an entire year (2011).

Foursquare badges are displayed on Bing Maps.

A start-up called Topguest is using check-ins from just about all the major location services to award hotel travel reward points.

A travel content company called PlanetEye has been running trials with Foursquare for using check-ins to identify spots popular with locals in Toronto and New York City.

What's great about this idea is that it can identify popular locations that have become popular only very recently -- festivals, concerts and other popular events, for example. That means when you're a visitor in a strange city, you could find out where the nightlife is, where the cultural events are and where the locals go.

Eventually, location services like Foursquare will become like Costco membership. The only way to get access to low prices at some businesses will be to participate. Since it's free and easy, people will do it.

Network effect

Enthusiasts and marketers are driving adoption. But another driver is something called network effect. As more people use services like Foursquare, using the service becomes more valuable.

A fast-growing number of users will leave notes, engage in location-based chat and use the services as an alternative to communicating via e-mail, text, chat, Twitter or Facebook. If you want to be in the loop, you'll want to join.

If you're at an event -- such as the World Cup, a boat race or a school function -- you might want to interact with other people there. Location services automatically create a temporary social network of whoever is near you.

If you attend industry conferences, you may find an increasing number of them putting all conference communication on location services. You'll be able to find colleagues, discuss presentations and find out logistical information -- but only if you join.

Resistance is futile

The reason I say you'll soon use Foursquare or some other location service is that even if you don't embrace a location-based social networking, one is likely to embrace you.

The products, services and businesses you enjoy will increasingly offer incentives to persuade you to use location services. Companies, conference and event organizers, family and friends will be using location-based social networking.

Credible rumors suggest that Facebook has had discussions with Foursquare about acquisition. That's one way in which a social service you're already using every day might soon be simply location-enabled in some profound way.

Location-based social networking is here to stay. And if you can't see any good reason why you might want to join one, just wait a bit. Someone will eventually come up with a reason for you.

You will be assimilated.

Mike Elgan writes about technology and global tech culture. Contact Mike at mike.elgan@elgan.com, follow him on Twitter or his blog, The Raw Feed.

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Mike Elgan

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