Sunday, 14 March 2010

Geotagging Twitter - where do we go from here?

Last week, Twitter gave its web users the opportunity to geotag their updates.

While the concept is nothing new to those using third-party applications on their mobile (such as Tweetdeck and Echofon), tweeters chained to their desktop computers will now find they have the choice to include a location with their message.

Biz Stone, head tweet at the company, summarised the new feature:

“People who choose to add this additional layer of context help make Twitter a richer information network for all of us—location data can make tweets more useful.”

No doubt team blue bird will be hoping that geotagging becomes common practice across the site. Location sharing is entering its salad days and the successes of Gowalla and Foursquare have probably influenced Twitter's decision to roll out the feature to its web users.

Still, while the geotagging option for Twitter users may make the service 'more useful', it's arguable (if popular) that companies will be the overall beneficiaries from the mass use of location sharing.

You are here. So are we.

Much like SEO copywriting, a Twitter campaign revolves around keywords: targeting users who transmit relevant phrases and queries. It's not a new marketing tactic and as a strategy, it can be a bit hit-and-miss.

If you're automatically following individuals who use a certain word, there's a strong chance you're going to connect to a number of irrelevant people; particularly if your keyword phrase is a heteronym.

Geotagging (or more specifically, an increase of users opting to share their location) opens up the door for laser-sighted social media strategies. Knowing where a user is at any given moment offers the opportunity to target and advertise to individuals with greater accuracy.

Take this fictional tweet:

“Waiting in town for a friend. Hope she hurries up. I'm starving.”

Three minutes later, a nearby restaurant replies to the user with a link to its menu. Inspired, the customer travels to the restaurant, eats the food and pays the bill. Smiles all round.

We know where you live

The opportunity to use the service for consumer research may be just as fruitful. Theoretically, a series of geotagged tweets could be used to create a refined marketing campaign; using Twitter updates to form a coherent advertising and social media strategy based on a collection of locations.

For example:

Twitter user A goes to bar B, buys groceries from shop C and lives in D. Company E wishes to attract more individuals like A. The business refines its marketing strategy based on the locations tagged by A and other individuals.

Facebook adverts, which target the interests and hobbies users submit to the site, are dependent on the honesty of the consumer (and how many of us have listed War and Peace as our favourite book to seem intellectual). The chance to base a social media campaign around the actual activities and interests of a user is, I suspect, too tempting to pass up. If only because the data is truthful.

Where do we go from here?

There are a few websites which offer local maps of real-time tweets. Twittermap and Twittervision provide a service of sorts, but both have various failings which reduce their effectiveness for those wanting to incorporate geotagging into a campaign. The iPhone Echofon app probably gives the best visual example of how useful location-based updates could be.

If geotagging takes off on Twitter, I'd be surprised not to see more tools designed to pull in location. Indeed, sites such as tweetalarm and twilert, which send Google Alert-esque emails when keywords are mentioned in tweets, could be modified to include tweets from specific areas. Of course, this is all conjecture.

It all depends on if enough users choose to share their daily lives with the rest of the internet.

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