Location-based services: The new social currency for teens

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Location-based services such as Foursquare, Facebook Places and Gowalla are more popular than ever. Recent stats from youth marketing research firm YPulse reveal that location-based services are more popular amongst teenagers in the United States.

Four in 10 students (40 percent) have ever checked in via social media, with high school students slightly (45 percent) more likely than university students to have done so, according to Ypulse. The report was drawn from 1 326 interviews conducted among high school and university students in the US.

““It is a minority of young social media users who have done so, but the numbers are significant, particularly in comparison to the mere four percent of all adults who have checked in via social sites, according to Pew Research,” said Ypulse editor-in-chief Melanie Shreffler.

The YPulse report notes that teenagers who have checked in online favour events with 67 percent of those surveyed having checked in at various events other concerts which has a 62 percent check in rate. 64 percent of students check in at the movies, 63 percent at restaurants and 52 percent at retailers. An interesting trend shows that students also like to check in to show what they are watching online or on Television.

“The big trend according to Shreffler is that what these teenagers post online is their social currency. “”A check in at the sold-out concert, hot night spot, or cool store ups their social street cred and shows others they part of the latest trend,” she adds.

As Twitter allows users to tell their followers what they are doing, location-based services allow them to show their friends what they are into. Privacy has become a non-issue in the process —as they are comfortable sharing their whereabouts and don’’t mind marketers using that information to better understand their consumer behaviour, YPluse reports.”

It takes more than a presence on social media for brands and retailers to take advantage of young people’s’ desire to broadcast their lives. Offering exclusive content or a discount —a free MP3 download for checking in at a concert or a free soda with purchase at a restaurant —rewards users for checking in and sharing the brand with friends and encourages them to continue that behaviour. A check in rewards system is also a key feature of location-based marketing.

The behaviour of the US teens does not, however, reflect global trends.

Earlier this year youth communication agency Dubit reported, for instance, that Foursquare and Facebook Places are still meaningless to half of UK teenagers.

Stating that “most teens don’t get the point of location-based services, and those who do are too creeped out to use them.”

Dubit’s 1 000-person survey found that 48 percent of teens have not heard of Places, Foursquare, or other location services. The 67 percent of teens who have heard of the services don’t use any of them. Only 27 percent of teens have heard of Foursquare. Only five percent of teens who have heard of Foursquare actually use it. Safety is big issue and 45 percent don’t feel safe using location-based services.

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