LBS tries to create real community

lbsLocation Based Services (LBS) seem to be gaining momentum and a certain level of respectability. For the uninitiated, LBS is the leverage of applications/devices that use positioning as a value add to services. This is typically found on mobile phones, Personal Navigation Device’s (PND’s) etc. A recent media report suggests that location based mobile social networking revenue will hit $3.5B by 2013.

Whether we are talking LBS through a mobile phone, PND or through the leveraging of a social media app, there is no question that LBS and the platforms that leverage them will grow to dominate the consumer market place and the attention of marketers. I remember a few years back people complained that the Internet was breeding a generation of isolationist. Kid’s..people… staying home and doing everything from the comfort and security of their PC. Early Social Media sites gave people a virtual place to connect. Sure you could go on ..say, “hello,” share and get to know many people but for me it still removed what I think is a key social attribute …proximity..closeness …real “community.”

GPS/LBS applications and services of tomorrow will bring the remoteness and vastness of one’s “virtual social surroundings” closer. Consumers will begin to reference their particular preferences for goods and services with proximity. We will begin to see a solid integration of the virtual world with the real world. I can now “see” the virtual world but better still will be a world where I can share with those I want/need in it, in real time through various devices. More and more people will begin to reference their friends or other users with similar interest by way of proximity.

For consumers, this is a particularly interesting yet challenging notion and will afford a unique opportunity to parse the world (virtual and real) along individual lines of interest. I now have the ability to select what I see and what I want to be told (gps based social media apps allowing me to see friends, local businesses of interest, etc). I also am now challenged with needing/wanting to share my most valuable piece of information… where I am. The anonymity and lack of “real community” had built in safeguards. Today I can open up my world to others or be as selective as I need to be. That still has the possibility of leaving one vulnerable but admittedly it’s the cost we incur in the real world, so it’s not that unreasonable a notion.

The other aspect of all this deals with marketing messages and how they are positioned. Clearly messages in a LBS world need to be different, unique and worth inviting you into my community. This, not just because I want to limit what I want you to tell me but because I want to be careful of my own image in the eyes of my community. LBS creates a new arrangement in the product/consumer relationship. It’s no longer between me and the product but between me, the product and those I share my world with. It’s not a bad thing it’s just that marketers need to be more clear on the extent of their relationship and thus more clear on their message.
The friend of my friend could be your enemy.