Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Check OUT my Check IN

Do you get irritated by ‘check-in ‘update notifications from various social networking services?  Every time your friend visit’s a place of interest like a tourist attraction, hotel, café, airport, some special venue and if not worse you may also get to see a check-in alert while he/she is in their office/college etc. Sometimes people overdo this stuff without realizing that it can get really annoying beyond a point.

If you thought Social Media and technology is to blame for this stuff, think again and go back to times when all this stuff did not exist to really understand why we feel the need to share our whereabouts, you would start acknowledging this behavior as just one part of the human psyche we live with anyways. 

Location based services are emerging as a potential driving force to support commercial prospects of social media tools, e-commerce and sales in general for a small businessman to large firms. People create a pattern of their consumption habits and interests while using such services making it easier for offering customized sales offers, deals and discounts which in turn benefits consumers actively using such services to an extent, however a lot of us view this kind of “Big Data” study by social networking firms as an invasion of our privacy and even as a consumer no one really likes to get tracked as a potential sales prospect on the move.

If you would have happened to visit popular tourist places across any part in India, you may find carvings of people’s names on structures, walls, any other object at tourist attraction premises, memories of smitten lovers that may not interest you but all they can do is spoil the beauty of the overall place. 

if you go back further in time during ancient period when human civilization was busy drawing animal figures in caves, inscription found on clay tablets,  painting stories on pyramid walls in Egypt and many other monuments in the past which symbolize presence of a ruler, civilization and their influence during that period, People had places named after them and so on, however I can assure you that the significance of me checking in a washroom of a 5 star hotel would just vanish in a fart, no one’s going to narrate my poop chronicle any time in the future.

Everyone on planet earth with a population of more than seven billion is busy trying to leave a mark of their footsteps to places they have visited, and social medial platforms are a medium of creating that digital footprint for the world to see, so there’s a set of people who use location based check in services for any damn reason, believe me I had a colleague in office who used his Smartphone to check in at home and office everyday  to track how much time he was spending at both places, I was actually baffled with his logic to do such weird stuff but then these kind of people feel the need to get their presence validated by their friends, family etc as social media has definitely groomed the celebrity complex in all of us, still no one is going to give us a chance to feature our hand or foot print at Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame.

Airport and Railway terminal check-ins are also very popular, which also go into the footfall analysis passed on to companies and advertisers, Los Angeles airport was crowned most popular airport in terms of check-ins in 2011. If you happen to land at a airport in some foreign country and try looking for a popular joint at the airport to have food, these location based services come to your rescue by showing you most popular joints at the venue where you can head to directly rather than roaming all across or asking random people, airport staff etc for suggestion. 

There is surely going to be a connection in customer footfall/sales at cafés and the countless coffee mug shots uploaded on image sharing service like Instagram or location based service like Foursquare etc. Word of mouth promotion and herd mentality related to this visual overload of bragging work actively in such scenarios to promote business. If you check in at work daily as an automated update gets posted on either Facebook or Twitter, some of your friends may even like your status but you may get a comment one fine day when you are out of office asking if you are on a holiday. So even if your presence at some place is not getting validated, it is surely getting noticed.

If you go by numbers, having 100 friends on your list even if 10 people check-in to a place, this check-in is viewed by 1000 people, so you can imagine the kind of cascading effect location based services play in building indirect branding for a local business, if check in services were just going to be a fad why do you think services like TripAdvisor, Zomato, FoodPanda etc. continue mushrooming and sometimes we discover less known joints with quality food and leisure outlets due to member recommendation on such applications, reading through blog reviews and more. 

I personally feel this type of services can be used in balanced way, according to one’s preference for privacy which varies for all of us. Be alert of pre-defined settings on your gadgets which probably could be revealing a lot more about you and your habits from what you actually want to reveal and when you sign up on many sites these days which have Facebook or Twitter sign in enables make sure to keep a watch if they are posting on your behalf to your wall, you can edit posting preferences to be visible only to you or your friends if you do not want to make it public, You recommendation is not just a blip on the map today, there’s more to it and next time you think what’s the need for this whole check in game, remember the historical image of Neil Armstrong’s footprint on the moon from Apollo mission and you may understand.

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