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Location-based social networks growing but not yet mainstream: survey

Although the future looks bright for location-based social networking, a new survey of Myxer users in the United States found that it might not be as mainstream as it is perceived to be.

The latest Myxer BoomBox report found that only 11 percent of respondents claim to use location-based social networks, with leading services differing greatly from those that get the most publicity. For this month’s report, Myxer used PollDaddy, an online polling and survey tool, which gathered responses from more than 1,500 Myxer users.

Mobile Commerce Daily’s Dan Butcher interviewed Andrew Coury, analyst at Myxer, Miami. Here is what he had to say:

What is the key finding of the study?
Of the 1,500 respondents Myxer surveyed over the past two months, only 11 percent claim they use location-based social networks.

Of these respondents, consumers heavily favored Booyah’s MyTown, which claimed 56 percent of those polled, while Loopt came in second place at 12 percent.

Surprisingly, two of the more “popular” services, Gowalla and Foursquare, trailed far behind MyTown, only capturing 8 percent respectively.

What is the most surprising finding, and why?
Privacy concerns have been long believed to be the primary reason for users not participating in location-based social networks.

However, based on the results from this poll only 14 percent claimed privacy as the reason for not using these social networks, while 56 percent claimed lack of interest, and nearly a quarter—23 percent—reported that their phone doesn’t have the ability.

What is driving growth in the mobile location-based social networking space?
While participation in location-based social networking apps is growing, it is certainly not mainstream yet. It seems to be a niche market, but those users are becoming increasingly active over time.

Of the 11 percent who responded yes to using these networks, they appear to be increasingly active, with 73 percent citing an increase in their use of these services and only 27 percent reporting a decrease.

And in terms of frequency, 31 percent said they check in at least once a day, and 26 percent said they check-in every hour, giving hope to a potential of high-engagement from a marketing perspective.

A driving force for engagement seems to be a reward system within the game, which allows users to receive points or awards for accruing a certain number of “check-ins.”

Additionally, among those polled who do use location-based social networks, 55 percent said that they have used location-based social networks to attend a venue, and of those who attended venues, music events were most popular at 36 percent, followed by restaurants at 28 percent and bar and clubs at 19 percent.

What advice can you give to mobile marketers based on your findings?
Users who participate in these location-based social networks are extremely “social” by nature, more so than those who use traditional social networks. They tend to be opinionated and do not mind being vocal and outspoken when it comes to brand loyalty.

Advertisers can use this to help target an audience of influencers who might further engage with their brand directly through these social networks.

While some advertisers might use this information to determine who to target, others might find the results just as helpful in deciding who not to target.

Since location-based social networks are clearly not mainstream yet, those brands who are looking to reach a broad audience may want to shy away from these social networks until their user base is more established.