Apr 1, 2010

About a year ago, a colleague — someone I admire and respect a great deal — introduced me to I can’t resist a new tool, so I immediately checked it out.

Essentially, Brightkite, like its competitors in the location-based social networking space, allows users to tell others where they are, using real-time geolocating technology. Why, I wondered, would I want to know where my online (or even real-life) friends were at every minute of the day?

Turns out my colleague was a year ahead of his time.

Like a half million other users, I am addicted to Foursquare. I check-in everywhere I go. I accumulate points and badges. I want to become mayor of something. My Foursquare updates are pushed out to my Twitter followers and Facebook friends. Why, my friends want to know. Why share such minutia?

And what is the hoopla around location-based apps like Foursquare, Loopt, Gowalla, and Whrll? Why are we suddenly hearing about stalwarts of the web — Google, Facebook, and Yelp–– rushing to include check-in ability to their services? Why is this important? And how does it relate to recruiting?

Why am I so enthusiastic? Right now, primarily, because it’s fun. It’s like a game, getting more points than my friends (there is a leader board, updated weekly), collecting badges, becoming mayor or toppling the mayor of an establishment. There are also tangible benefits. Mayors sometimes get free stuff; checking in sometimes activates special coupons for Foursquare users. Then there are the networking possibilities. More than once, I have checked in somewhere, to learn that a friend or colleague was nearby, leading to an impromptu meeting.

Why all the hoopla? What’s new about this? To marketers, location-based social networking represents a new way to reach customers, right at the point of purchase or action. Consider these examples of how location-based services are creeping into our digital lives to become indispensible tools:

  • Municipalities have opened transportation data to support new apps that track bus and train services, real-time
  • Real estate apps make it easy to instantly determine what properties are for sale in the area and direct buyers to open houses, real time
  • Big consumer brands have launched campaigns that allow users to check-in at grocery aisles to receive product discounts or contribute to charitable organizations, real-time

To application developers, location-based social networking provides a layer of very compelling data. Time-stamped location-based data has the potential to reveal very specific, predictive information about actionable patterns and behavior. For example, think about ice cream retailers. What if they were able to offer coupons to customers based on location/temperature and behavioral patterns? More specifically, if an ice creamery knew that customers purchase less ice cream when temperatures fall five degrees, they could distribute coupons just as temperatures dip, just as customers walk past the ice cream shop, thus increasing sales, just-in-time.

Predictive pattern recognition, hyper-local promotions, real-time response. What does this have to do with recruiting? Truth is, I don’t quite know yet. I do know that it is important, and a precursor to new recruiting technologies. As the advertising industry goes, so goes recruiting (think of the move from print to online, search engine marketing, and the use of video). Certainly there will be creative applications of location-based marketing in college recruiting and event recruiting.

Location-based social networking is yet another sign that we have entered the mobile age.

It’s likely that these tools will soon be integrated into prominent social networking applications, such as Facebook or LinkedIn. Checking in will become second nature, like following or linking. For many, the benefits of participation will outweigh the concerns about privacy, and creative employers will think of ways of using these services to attract and impress jobseekers. The question is, who will be the first to incorporate location-based technologies into the recruiting process? Who will be the mayor of talent acquisition?

Get articles like this
in your inbox
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting articles about talent acquisition emailed weekly!