Growth of Mobile Check-Ins: The Numbers

Although there’s quite a bit of chatter about location based marketing, it’s very much so still in the early development stages.  Regardless of its infancy, location based marketing provides some excellent opportunities for marketers. And, as with most other things, it’s a much better idea to jump on board in the early stages rather than have to play catch up once location based marketing becomes a necessary part of companies marketing mix.

Select Activities of U.S. Check-in Service and SmartPhone Users

“Checking in” is a powerful capability that allows users with mobile platforms (i.e. a smartphone or a tablet PC) to sign into social networks and share information about their present locations and activities. For example, Gowalla and Foursquare allow users to find out which of their friends are nearby, what they’re up to, and the ability to share the same information with them.

This power of information garnered through a customers location has endless benefits. Companies can get actual data on who their competitors are, detailed information about their target audiences eating, buying, and entertainment habits, and much more. If properly used by marketers, location based applications can provide vital information about their target audience that was never before possible.

While location based services are still in the early adoption stages, it is expected that they may enter the mainstream this year, based on their growth in 2010.  Facebook’s inclusion in location marketing will help carry location based services into the mainstream. Currently, Facebook has a 58% reach on mobile devices, which is comparable to the 70% reach it has on home computers.  Twitter, the social network designed for messages constrained to a tiny character limit, is a very popular site for social sharing on mobile devices as well.

Last year, U.S. mobile social network users increased by 64% to 38.9 million. Currently about 15% of smartphone users access social media via their smartphone.  However, this number is expected to more than double over of the next 4 years.  Likewise, marketers aren’t currently allocating a large part of their advertising budgets to social mobile usage, but this number is expected skyrocket as marketers determine more effective ways to target mobile users.

According to a study by eMarketer, 8.6 million mobile social network users existed in 2008.  That number was multiplied by 5 times in 2010, and based on that rate of expansion, it could double again in the next five years.  The leading social networks responsible for this massive growth include Brightkite, Loopt, MyTown, foursquare, Gowalla, and Whrrl.

Demographic profile of U.S. SmartPhone vs. total mobile users who are check-in service users

Even though location based check-ins have been growing substantially, they still represent a fairly small proportion of total internet users.  According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 4% of online adults are making use of location-based services to share their activities.  7% of adult mobile users take part in location-sharing services.  It’s also worth noting that twice as many men as women use location-sharing, and 18-29 year olds share location twice as much as all other age groups of adults.

Nonetheless, you can see that this represents a growing trend, so much so that one third of U.S. companies surveyed by Forrester Research this year said that they were experimenting with location-based advertising.  27% plan to test their strategies within the next year.

Spencer Belkofer is a blogger, researcher, and business owner. He recently started an Alabama SEO company, Lumin. In addition to online marketing services, Lumin also offers premium web design for companies looking for a conversion based web presence.

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