Geolocation Services Gaining Ground
Location-based service sites -- such as Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places -- may seem like the hottest new platform online service on the block, but adoption is still relatively small, a new survey finds.
According to the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life project’s report on the use of "geosocial" or location-based services, about four percent of online adults in the United States use a service that allows them to share their location with friends and to find others who are nearby. On any given day, one percent of Internet users are using these services.
Location-based services often run on stand-alone software applications, or "apps," on most major GPS-enabled smartphones or other devices.
Some of these “geosocial” services emphasize social networking functions, and can notify friends on the service when the user is nearby. Users may also be able to leave comments or reviews for a certain business or other location, which may be viewed by later visitors.
This is the second survey of the Pew Internet Project to ask about such "geosocial" or location-based services. The current number shows little change from the first time this question was asked, in a May 2010 survey, when five percent of adult internet users said they had used such a site.
"Location-based services such as Foursquare and Gowalla are relatively new, so we were not very surprised that only four percent of online adults have used this type of location-based service," the report's lead author Kathryn Zickuhr told TechNewsDaily.
"It's interesting to note that the demographic breakdown of these location-service users looks pretty similar to all early adopter cohorts. It will be interesting to see how it evolves."
The latest survey revealed that seven percent of adults who go online with their mobile phone use a location-based service. Meanwhile, eight percent of online adults ages 18-29 use location-based services, significantly more than online adults in any other age group.
Hispanics who are online are more likely to use these services (10 percent) compared to Caucasians (three percent) and African Americans (five percent).
"Our data from the past couple of years have also shown that minority Americans lead in mobile Internet access, especially in connecting to the Internet using handheld devices," Zickuhr said.
A recent report from the company found that nearly two-thirds of African-Americans and Latinos are wireless Internet users. It also revealed that minority Americans are significantly more likely to own a cell phone, and take advantage of a much wider array of their phones’ data functions compared to white cell phone owners who are white.
Men are also more likely to use the service (six percent), compared with three percent of online women.
There has been much industry chatter about how marketers can use location-based services to reach out to consumers.
"One of the more useful comparisons I’ve heard is that it's like the latest incarnation of frequent customer punch-cards that give the consumer, say, a free coffee for every ten punches," Zickuhr said.
"It's not hard to see why businesses would be excited about location-based services because of the potential for so much direct interaction with the customer—not to mention some pretty detailed metrics about their most loyal customers and how often they come in."