For anyone that has had a social networking profile for the last several years has seen the evolution of the concept from a simple profile with photo albums and blogs to an all encompassing experience. Some sites have gone and incorporated the concept of Social Check-in directly into their content, while others have made it their sole business. These sites that have nearly perfected what it means to socially check-in, while the big players are learning how to make it work with your currently existing account, and profile. What I am curious about, which is better? Which of the four major contenders offers the better experience. After that, I will throw one more contender at you that takes a completely different, and interesting approach to social check-ins.
Foursquare is seen as the leader in social check-ins for many. It not only lets you share your location, but it also lets you share that information on Facebook and Twitter. Foursquare has also made some deals with various venders to give users special bonus’s and coupons for checking in at particular locations, or becoming a “Mayor”, which is a way of showing others how often you check in at a particular location.
SCVNGR is another app that is trying to steal some limelight from Foursquare. Just like Foursquare, they have special deals and offers from various venders when you check-in at their locations. Another feature they offer is “challenges”. Challenges make checking in more of a game than a chore. It makes it more of a “scavenger” hunt this way (hence SCVNGR). There are no “mayors” for locations, which may or may not matter to some people. One thing that may entice people to use SCVNGR more is that it loosely ties into Facebook Places.
If you want your check-ins mixed with a little “Augmented Reality”, then you may wish to give Yelp! a try. This is a nifty app that offers many of the same features as Foursquare and SCVNGR, but gives you the ability to use your camera and GPS to help show what business are around you. You can also use filters to determine what exactly you are looking for.
A new contender to the Social Check-in world is an old school player, Facebook. They bring to the table “Facebook Places”. The problem with Facebook Places is that if you have a smartphone, or maybe even a feature phone, that is not supported, you can not use the feature. For everyone else that can, it is very easy to use it, especially when you use Android, iPhone, or supported Blackberry’s with the app since Facebook integrated it directly into it.
Facebook Places also gives you the ability to have a flowing discussion with various people that visit a particular place that you have checked in at. There are no points, or mayors here, just socializing. However, Facebook does intend to throw in the chance for venders to do targeted marketing at those that check in at particular places. This will supposedly work similarly to what Foursquare and SCVNGR are doing.
The last contender I want to throw into this bowl is Google Places. Google’s dream of checking in is to capitalize on users search results, and activities with their Google Android powered phones, and any other device they may have Google maps installed on. Google Places will give users a chance to not just check in at a place, and then share it, but to also rate a particular place. This is a great way for Google to also map in various locations and such so they pretty much will know everything about anything, including real world locations in any particular location!
Another interesting thing is that Google has Places tied into Buzz, albeit a bit loosely right now…much like most of their other offerings. For those with an Android phone this is great, but for everyone else this really doesn’t mean much.
Google Latitude is another entry that ties into Google’s loosely conjoined social services. This one is a bit creepy however, as it allows you to visually see where any and all of your friends are at, as long as they are logged into the service. Again, another great app for those that are using Android handsets.
As for other applications and services that offer similar features here is the honorable mentions worth looking into and trying out.
Glympse – I have covered Glympse a while back. Their app is nothing more than a tool designed to send SMS and Twitter messages of your locations with quick messages. Great for sharing a location with a friend to meet up somewhere, or to pick you up if stranded.
GetGlue – Here is an offering that doesn’t have you check-in your location, but rather check-in your activities and interests. Playing the latest greatest video game and want to let everyone know? This is your app. Going to the newly released movie? Here ya go! This is the app for those that enjoy doing things, rather than just going places.
How do you take advantage of these apps and make them work for you at their fullest? I recommend a good smartphone. Newer Blackberry’s, the iPhone, or pretty much any Android phone released in the last year. GPS and Wifi are your friends with these apps to offer the best location detection. Some people actually find themselves having ALL of these apps installed, as to maximize their mobile lifestyle, while others will find one or two just suitable. I personally have all of them installed, each serving a particular purpose, while a couple others overlap. Check them out, and determine which ones are best for you. You won’t be disappointed.
*Edit 11/26/2010 – Forgot to put in Yelp in the original post. Went back and put it in.