Report: Geolocation apps used by few

A new report underscores the PR challenges that are ahead for geolocation businesses, services that offer incentives for people to "check in" at businesses using an app on their mobile phones.

A new report underscores the PR challenges that are ahead for geolocation businesses, services that offer incentives for people to “check in” at businesses using an app on their mobile phones.

According to the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project on any given day just 1% of Internet users use these apps and 4% of all Internet users use geolocation apps. Moreover, 6% of men online use geolocation apps versus 3% of women.

And, not surprisingly, a younger, app-savvy demographic is more likely to use these services. Eight percent of online adults between the ages 18 and 29 use geolocation.

Apps such as Foursquare, Gowalla, and Facebook Places have caught the eyes and checkbooks of venture capital firms and received a lot of ink as social media migrates to smartphones like the iPhone and Android operating system. Companies are also looking to tap into the vast social networks of potential consumers.

Just today clothes retailer Gap kicked-off a campaign offering a free pair of jeans to the first 10,000 people who check in at a Gap retail location using Facebook Places. On Wednesday, Facebook announced its Deals program, partnerships with other brands offering discounts and goodies to people who use Facebook Places, the company's geolocation app it launched in August.

But it's clear that these services, while relatively new, remain hazy and esoteric to social media users outside of tech early adopters who sleep with their smartphones and spend all their allowance money on apps.

Foursquare, one of the fastest growing geolocation services with 4 million users, just recently hired Kaplow PR.

Last night I was asked at a PR cocktail shindig if I thought it was too soon for Foursquare to hire a PR agency. I said no, because I believe a vast majority of casual social media app users couldn't even define what a geolocation, or location-based app is.

You can only rely on savvy early adopters for so long, and then it's imperative you appeal to the masses to grow.

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