Turn On, Check In, Hang Out

What do social check-in’s have to do with “influence”? This was the basis for a recent conversation  I had with Fred McClimans of the McClimans Group. Check out Fred’s most recent post “Are We Ready to Add Cause to Social Check-Ins?” to get a sense of the evolution of social check-in. Have you checked in lately? Foursquare, GowallaFacebook, Twitter, or Google+? Why do you do it? To earn reward points or get discounts/freebies? Or is it something more?

The Baby Boomers had their heyday in the 60’s with the famous Timothy Leary phrase “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” They had civil rights, anti-war protests and sexual freedom. My generation, Generation X,  will be known for big hair, Madonna, Gordon Gekko and urban decay. Nice. And Generation Y a.k.a. the Millennials? Well, they are the forefront of a new age.  I seem to have missed all the cool generations.

Baby Boomers and Gen X are a bit suspicious of social check-in, but Gen Y/Millennials embrace it. What going one here?

Technological Descendant of Smoke Signals

Let’s go back a bit. I’ve carried some sort of electronic communication device on my person since 1987. Back then, it was doctors, drug dealers and IT professionals. I am not now, nor have I ever been a doctor, and the only thing I’ve had in common with drug dealers is we  (the IT pros) also called our clients “users.” A pager was a status symbol, of sorts. Wow, was I excited when I got a pager that gave me real-time stock quotes and sports scores! At it’s core, however, it was a communication tool, and would remain so until it’s obsolescence.

What’s worse, it was for the most part a one-way communication tool. The 20th century equivalent of sending up smoke signals. To respond, you had to turn to an alternate communication device. Remember pay phones?

Flash forward to today, where personal communication devices are ubiquitous. You have the ability to communicate with everyone you’ve ever known and a generation that’s not afraid to do just that. Prior generations made plans to meet somewhere to hang out. We would call each other, maybe send a page. Think about this: today’s generation hangs out together wherever they are!

Marketing Tool or Social Commentary

The history of innovation in communications is finding ways to leverage the power of each communication medium. Today’s marketers created the concept of a social checkin-in to leverage smartphones. They needed an alternative to increasingly ineffective “push” marketing techniques. Push marketing doesn’t work well anymore. Seeing that today’s connected, social consumers like to share with their peers,  brands cleverly attempted to leverage that behavior with social check-in services.

Now here’s an interesting twist. There is a generation alive today who is turning marketing efforts into their very own communication tools. They are turning a social marketing ploy into a social statement.

For many a check-in is far more than just participation in a brand’s gamfication strategy. It’s a densely crafted social statement. Consider what information we get from these checkin-ins and what they’re trying to say:

  • “At DMV. Can’t believe these lines…”
  • “Hanging at Starbucks talking influence with @fredmcclimans”
  • “At the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer (with 1000 other people). Support me?”
We are only just scratching the surface of the impact of pervasive social connectivity and a new language to describe it. Add “check-in” to the list. Where do you see it going next?

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