FourSquare, Gowalla, Facebook Places: What you are doing when and where is what smartphones appear to have been designed for. Even Twitter lets you search for tweets sent locally – location is a big feature of social media and still much under-used by businesses.

Most Smartphones now come with geo-location and if you’ve not used or don’t really know what it is all about you are missing out. Basically it is similar to tracking or positioning that you may be used to if you use a GPS sat nav. The location of a place or user is identified either by using the IP address of their computer or the radio-frequency identification (RFID) of the user’s smartphone. With the increase in uptake of the smartphone there it is a marketing tool with growing potential for the for small businesses.

The first to use it for marketing have been the bar / restaurants and retail sector. Networks such as Foursquare and Gowalla combine gamification with check-in at new places and by encouraging visitors to check in, the business can use that information to track trends and even target specific campaigns to the users checking in. You can even encourage new people on the networks to sign in by offering special offers when they are in the vicinity. Once customers choose to engage in this way you can almost guarantee they are more likely to be better engaged than your average ‘casual’ customer so it is well worth the investment into looking after them.

What’s more location-based social networks like FourSquare and Gowalla now offer integration into other networks like Twitter and Facebook so you can encourage your check-in customers to re-tweet or post to their wider audiences on the bigger networks too, spreading your brand.

Geo-location is still in its infancy and many even with smartphones don’t yet fully grasp it, either as a business or end-user. However, the integration and possibilities seem endless and are only likely to improve, so if you invest time and effort now you could see yourself several leaps above your competitors in an area of marketing that will become commonplace in a matter of months.

Do you already use location-based marketing? How? With what effect? We’d love to feature any innovative ideas.

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