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Ok, it’s true confession time. When I first heard of the check-in applications, such as GoWalla or Foursquare, my initial thought was, “Who Cares?”. Now, having used Foursquare for a few months, I’m actually enjoying it! And I believe there are some great reasons to use check-in apps as part of your online marketing strategy.

So, for those who may not know, (or maybe resistant, like I was), these check-in applications allow you to update your status with an indication of your current place and location. So, let’s say for instance that I’ve gone to dinner at my favorite Italian restaurant, I can “check in” here, and all my Foursquare friends will know I’m there. You can, optionally, also choose to update your Twitter or Facebook status as well. And you can add a comment or message, like “Fantastic garlic knots.”

On Foursquare, you are awarded points for your checkins, and they increase in value the more frequently you check in. You get +1 point for checking in, and +5 points for checking in from a new location. If you check in to multiple places in a day, you are awarded additional points. You are then awarded badges based on your activity.

I have found the badges to be, generally, both clever and fun. On a recent to trip to Denver, I checked in at Denver International Airport, and unlocked the Swarm badge- which you get when 30 or more people check in from the same location. Additionally, if you check in from a place more than anyone else, you can become the Mayor of that location.

So the playful nature of this process is very appealing. It’s also fun to see what badges your friends have unlocked, and to use the application to gain a location and place based sense of what your friends are doing that day.

Great, you say- sounds like fun. But how can this help me in my marketing?

(Glad you asked!)

Here are some ways check in apps can help your marketing:

1) They can drive branding. We all need ways to stand out within our market space. If you have interesting hobbies and activities, people will naturally want to follow you and learn more. You will have succeeded in gaining their attention and notice.

2) They can drive relationship building. The apps let you in on the daily routine of a person’s life (the parts they choose to share)- and this can help you get to know them better and seek common ground.

3) People are attracted to movement and action. If they see you moving about the world, taking part in different events, different activities, you are (no pun intended) automatically seen as a “mover and shaker”– this can position you for opportunities and contacts.

4) You can build greater influence. You can use your “check-in” status to make recommendations and suggestions for those in your friends list. These can help you be seen as conscientious and helpful.

5) Finally, they’re fun. I love to see what other people are doing and to make note of places I’d like to try too.  Again, the first part of all marketing is to get attention- and the check-in apps can help you do this well.

So if you’ve been reluctant to start checking-in, you might want to reconsider. And yes, I’d love to be Foursquare friends.