Trends for 2011 Part 4: Location based social networking

Foursquare, Facebook Places and other location-based social networking services will come to the forefront in 2011. Rob Blackie, head of digital at Blue Rubicon, says: 'People will start to use location services to find their nearby friends on the spur of the moment. This will be a great opportunity for savvy brands to give people discounts for turning up in groups with friends.'

A PR trend: location based social networking
A PR trend: location based social networking

Location-based social media are already used - Foursquare has about five million users - but fears over privacy and security have made some people cautious. But Facebook Places, which launched in 2010, is tipped to help location-based social networking, already very popular in the US, come of age.

33 Digital's Benvie says: 'The movement is gathering pace. We are going to see Facebook enabling people to offer deals to those who check into their shops or environment. Moving into "social commerce", generating the word of mouth that actually sells stuff, is an important trend. When you say 600 million people have the opportunity to do this on Facebook, not just five million, that is a really big trend.'

Web analytics will help develop accuracy in targeted messaging, sometimes to an almost creepy degree. Edelman's Hargreaves notes: 'From a brand reputation point of view, we need to work out the rules.'

The second challenge for brands is to overcome people's reluctance to reveal their locations. Lansons' Langham says: 'The reason it will take off is vouchers, which have been the big story of the past two years.'

But he adds that, as with other social media, trends will be driven by users and brands will respond, not the other way around: 'Glastonbury 2011 will be a great coming of age for location-based social networking.'

Click here to see Cathy Bussey, features editor of PRWeek ask a panel of experts what they think are the key trends for 2011.

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