February 21, 2009

BrightKite: If You Think Your Life Is Boring, You're Missing The Point

Guest Post by Kipp Bodnar and Wayne Sutton of Talk Social News

Authors' Note: This post references Brightkite specifically because it was the application discussed in the original post Louis wrote. However, many of the features and uses discussed in this post also apply to other location-based social networks. Though Brightkite is the example, this post should be seen as a commentary on the potential of location-based social networking in general.

Last week Louis threw down the challenge, when he asked to be educated on why he should use Brightkite. He was making fun of himself for having such a boring life. Because of this he felt that his placestream in Brightkite would always be the same and thus he should not use the service. While Louis has a point, location-based social networks should have their place in you day regardless of how boring you think you are.

Getting Local Without Posting An Update:
Like most all other forms of social media much of Brightkite's potential comes from observing. While participation is important, Brightkite offers a new way to observe people and places.

Below are some responses Wayne received to when asking How do you use Brightkite?" on his Brightkite profile:

gregbarnett says:

I'm using it to checkin and find new friends and I love learning about new places (restaurants, landmarks etc.) in the city I live in and also other cities and also to follow your obsession with hot dogs and donuts *lol*

dsims says:

I like the community aspect of seeing the notes and photos from at a place. Watching the placestream of Washington D.C. during the inauguration was awesome. I also use it to track places I've been to, and to share notes and photos about those places with others. I hate it when people use brightkite to post status updates that really have nothing to do with the location. I hope adoption increases because it does feel lonely to see that you are the only person to ever check in a certain spot, or even an entire city. Perhaps an integration of Google Latitude and Brightkite would help.

tbeseda says:

The placestreams are a great way to find new people who may not be so new after all (you see many of them every day!).

thunsaker says:

I've enjoyed seeing other parts of the world through the camera of another person. One person in particular @kewllewk travels quite a bit for his work and is always posting pics from foreign locations.

The above replies are only a sample, but using Brighkite to observe places in a new way was the most popular response to Wayne's question. To illustrate this, lets take a look at a place that some of us have been to, but all of us have probably seen on TV: Madison Square Garden. MSG is one of the most popular sports venues in the US and one of the icons of New York City. Regardless if you have been there or not a quick look at the Brightkite Place stream for MSG provides a new level of insight. It is a personal way to see such a monolithic place.

What if you are getting ready to go on vacation and planning what places to visit, a quick look at the Brightkite placestream for each could quickly help you determine which places will be a hit and which others look like misses.

So we convinced you! Their is value in checking out people and places on Brightkite, what is next? Participation.

Building Your Digital Footprint

Building your digital footprint use to mean having a blog or web site, maybe sharing some photos and videos. However, now with the popularity of the mobile web and location-based applications like Brightkite your digital footprint has gained a new dimension. Every place you visit now has the opportunity to be part of your digital footprint.

Lets take Louis for example, he will be on a panel next month at South By South West (SXSW) Interactive. Lets say he published a picture of the panel along with a couple of notes about what they are speaking about on Brightkite not only will all of his friends be able to check it out regardless where they are physically, but that image and note will always be tied to the Austin Convention Center's placestream. What happens at convention centers? Well a lot of conventions, so maybe someone a month or a year later is attending a convention in Austin and sees Louis' message and realizes that he needs someone to speak about that topic at an upcoming conference. The final result: a new speaking opportunity for Louis, from a simple checkin as part of his digital footprint.

Integration with Your Existing Social Media Workflow

A big plus for using Brightkite specifically is that it integrates with Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. You can post updates and photos automatically to one or all of those three services from Brightkite. Think about it this way, Brightkite makes Facebook, Twitter and Flickr location aware. If you are already sending photos to Flickr from your phone why not do it with Brightkite and add a location dimension to your photos while building your location-based digital footprint?

Facilitate Face-to-Face Communications

Brightkite also takes relationship building to another level.

Here are three quick examples:
  • You can find where other local users are located in real time or places they have visited.
  • You can meet other users at meetups or conferences when both check-in at the same location or near by.
  • Also, Brighkite makes it easy for unprompted meetings.
For example, Wayne is often in downtown Raleigh at Cafe Helios and on more than one occasion he has checked Brightkite and a few friends have showed up because they saw his update on Brightkite or his update on Facebook that came from Brightkite. The same thing has happen during traveling also, people who he's only had conversations with before have showed up at the same location to meet face to face because of Brightkite.

To some this may seem like cyber-stalking but you have to keep a few things in mind. One it's all optional, you don't have to check-in where you don't want to be found and two you can configure your settings to where you check-in to an area and not a direct address.

Business Impacts

As more businesses are using social media to reach new customers or engage with existing ones online, the business impact of using location-based services can be huge for companies looking to reach targeted local users. We're already seeing companies using twitter for coupons or promotions and that's great but what if you wanted to reach people who you knew that visited your company previously or worked near by. With Brighkite you can easily do location based advertising by the block, or city and go beyond advertising to understand the real-word referrers that normally send people to your business.

Brightkite's potential lies beyond its basic social networking features. Its power comes from connecting people and places together in a meaningful way and showcasing information in a user friendly manner that can be accessed from via desktop browser, SMS, and mobile browser.

When they aren't checking in on BrightKite or updating their own blogs, you can find Kipp Bodnar and Wayne Sutton on Talk Social News, a podcast focused on social media.