Check-ins Beyond Location

We can all agree that location-based platforms and applications are gaining momentum in the social marketing space. Many marketers have been leery to jump on the bandwagon as they felt the platforms hadn’t reached critical mass yet. With Foursquare’s recent announcement of 5 million users and 2 million check-ins per day, the service is clearly becoming more mainstream. People love to share and connect. These platforms allow for just that. Marketers can’t ignore their relevance and growth any longer.

Location-based services have been building their marketing offerings with early adopter brands testing and pushing them along. Foursquare began with simple programs such as coupons and discounts for mayorships. Shopkick upped the anti with mobile coupons and virtual currency that could be used to actually buy things based on your check-ins. And, finally, apps such as Miso and Get Glue have entered the picture as loyalty programs for checking into entertainment such as TV shows.

The space, the players and their niches are evolving quickly as they gain popularity with users and marketers alike.

The inherent use of location-based apps is the check-in. It goes without saying that brands that were early to test the platforms have been those where a physical check-in is possible. This includes restaurants, retail stores and other businesses that have actual locations. But what about brands that don’t have an address? How is it possible for them to harness the popularity and passion of the check-in?


Every social-based platform seems to be adding location or check-in features. Facebook, Twitter and Yelp to name a few. Foursquare has emerged as a leader in the standard check-in space. Standard meaning at the bare bones, a user checks into a location. The field and use of a check-in is expanding, however. Check-ins to topics, entertainment and products allow for users to connect not only to pop culture, but also to others that share similar interests. People have an innate desire to share and platforms that cater to that desire are emerging.

Lets users check into their favorite TV shows, movies, music, books, wine, topics, celebrities and video games. They can share their check-ins with friends and get personalized suggestions based on their interests. The app also lets users earn points and stickers from GetGlue and its brand sponsors.

Billed as the Foursquare for TV. Game mechanics and badges are designed to hook viewers with the promise of unlocking additional content.

Viewers check-in to the live content they are watching. It also pulls TV listings, so viewers can see the content that’s trending locally. App users earn show-specific awards based on their behaviors and work their way up a Hollywood-style ladder to earn Director and Executive Producer credits for shows.

Offers a sharing toolbar that lets users to connect to social networks while they surf the web. Meebo is launching a service that allows users to check in to any site that offers the Meebo bar as well as the ability to follow other users to see what websites they are visiting.

Foursquare for Beer Lovers. Enables beer drinkers to share beers, beer-drinking establishments and feedback about beers with friends and beer enthusiasts. You check in with what beer you are enjoying and also attach a venue.

Case Studies
Checking into Entertainment
Many social experts believe that entertainment will be the next big trend in check-ins. Not only are the number of apps and platforms exploding, but networks are eager to find users that are passionate about their content and willing to talk about it. Television programming is becoming much more social with people texting, tweeting and chatting about it. Networks want to connect with these people on a more emotional and less marketing-speak level because of the passion associated with TV shows. Creating social networks around these conversations to cultivate learnings and encourage engagement is becoming a no-brainer for content providers.

Universal Home Studios partnered with Miso on the release of its Despicable Me DVD. Minions were scattered about TV programs including the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and users earned an exclusive Minion Madness badge for checking into programs where the Minions made an appearance. The Minion Madness badge entitled users to earn prizes from

Bravo’s partnership with Foursquare included virtual Bravo branded badges and special prices for members who check-in at various Bravo themed locations. These locations have either been featured on a Bravo series or recommended by Bravo talent. Badges allow for promotional offers with partner locations.

Meebo has brought check-ins to the web. Their toolbar sits at the bottom of a website, allowing users to check-in to sites, share content from that particular page with their social networks and find out what sites their friends have visited. They feel their differentiation is the ability to see what your friends are doing right now, versus finding out the next day on Facebook as well as finding new, cool sites more organically. You can earn VIP status on sites, but there will be no badges or other game gimmicks. It will be up to the sites to reward frequent visitors.

Connecting with Loyalty Programs
Companies have been trying to determine the best way to coordinate check-ins with their existing loyalty programs. Do they try to connect the two? Or do they solely use an app like Shopkick or TopGuest as their loyalty program? I think we can all agree that those with an existing program need to find ways to integrate check-in data to their current loyalty program. The hope is also that users will no longer need to dig through their wallets to find those loyalty cards. They’ll just need to access their phone. Two brands have begun using check-in data to compliment their existing loyalty program: Tasti D-Lite & Safeway.

Tasti D-Lite’s TastiRewards program incentivizes customers to associate their Twitter and Foursquare accounts with their Tasti D-Lite membership card. Using TreatCards earns points for purchases, but those who connect the TreatCard to their social networks will earn additional points. The system will also update their Twitter and Foursquare accounts each time the card is swiped.

Safeway has built a platform which connects users Safeway loyalty accounts to Foursquare. The basis of this program and Pepsi Co is that rewards are tailored to user behavior rather than location. For example, if a user has a Gym Rat badge, they will receive a promotion for SoBe Lifewater. If they are checking in early, they’ll get offers for juice or cereal. It’s a great example of using check-in data to customize rewards.

Checking into Products
Platforms even more specialized than checking-in to content are popping up. These apps are typically centered around a common passion point like beer or food.

Untappd makes sharing and socializing your favorite beers easy. The heart of the app is checking-in to your favorite beers to share with your network. It has a lot of great features such as tying a location to your beer, commenting on friends choices and locations as well as posting your favorite brews to Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. To date, beer brands, breweries or bars have not tapped into the wealth of data and passion with Untappd, but it shouldn’t be long.

Check-ins are a marketer’s dream. They can find out a lot about the consumption of their product or service. The who’s, why’s, where’s and when’s. And users like to share their thoughts, but they must also be passionate enough about something to talk about it. There must also be something in it for them to interact as well. Checking-in could very easily get stale, so markets need to determine how to keep it alive. They must also do their homework on the different apps to determine those that best meet their needs as well as the needs of their consumers. There are a lot of great lessons to be gleaned from what is happening and building in the location-based space for brands that don’t have a place to check-in.


  1. Non-brick and mortar check-ins work best for passion brands or categories. If you’re asking or hoping that users will adopt checking-in to your content or product, you should probably make sure that your brand is something that they care enough about to do so. Or at least tie your brand to something that people are already passionate about.
  2. Connect check-ins with your loyalty program. People hate fishing for cards or having to give out phone numbers or email addresses to find their account. By integrating check-ins or creating loyalty programs, users will be more inclined to check-in if there is something in it for them. It’ll also be less confusing for the consumer to decide how he or she will interact with you.
  3. Tie your campaign to related locations. If users can’t physically check-in to your brand, offer a program and promotions for them to check into places where your brand might be featured or places that are relevant to your brand.
  4. Stay educated on emerging platforms. They may have features, offerings or niches that your brand can leverage.

What trends have you seen and what are your predictions for the future of check-ins?

Twitter: @kyleedecker

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Kylee Decker

Kylee Decker is an account supervisor on the 360 Digital Influence team of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide (Ogilvy PR), where she drives strategic word of mouth and social media initiatives for Ogilvy PR - West Coast. Prior to joining Ogilvy PR, Kylee’s experience included advertising agency media positions where she led development of strategic communications and outreach. Her unique blend of social and paid media planning brought her to the Digital Influence team. She was most recently at Crispin Porter & Bogusky where she worked on digital campaigns for Best Buy, including winning a Cannes Grand Prix for work on the Twelfporce campaign that built a successful outreach and response platform in the social space. In addition to her digital and social experience, Kylee has worked in traditional media, pushing boundaries and developing campaigns that test and expand the capabilities of broadcast, print and out of home. Kylee’s client work includes several consumer electronics, entertainment and Fortune 500 brands such as Best Buy, Old Navy, Microsoft, AARP, NBC, Bravo TV, Sci Fi Channel and Aramark Parks & Recreation. Kylee received a bachelor’s degree in Advertising from the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications. Her love for the social space goes beyond her nine to five with two fashion blogs and an active Twitter feed of all things fashion and social media. Kylee’s blog can be found at or follow her on Twitter at @kyleedecker.