Facebook pages are now increasing filled with check-ins. Checkins are typically native Facebook driven via Facebook Places or Foursquare, Gowalla based checkins. Google has its own app for it- Google Latitude which isnt as popular as the aforementioned ones but is still gaining steam. It would be worthwhile trying to understand why people check-in if we are to determine if this is a fad or the start of something bigger and permanent. I had written a post about this a while ago, but things have changed a lot since then and there are much bigger players to ponder on.

Foursquare and Gowalla were the earliest to the party and were fundamentally “advertise my location” apps that hoped to get people checking in for offers and such. It was very succesful, so much so that Google and Facebook created their own versions of it. To be clear, Google Latitude had existed in other forms before its current avatar but the checkin model became integral only after Foursquare and Gowalla showed how many people were willing to checkin. Facebook, given its 700 million users and counting, has used its subscriber muscle to the fullest extent and gotten people to use the feature.

Readwriteweb has a really nice summary of the possible reasons why people checkin. Of interest is the perceived motivation of chasing “badges” or virtual awards for checking in as often as one does. Many of my friends who checkin say they do so to let friends know where they are if they plan on meeting up. But that seems odd given the total public nature of the checkin process. That goes to the bigger question of is every Facebook friend, a real friend? The chart in this link gives a good breakdown of why people checkin.

Most companies realize that checking in will be a fad if it does not translate to something more tangible like offers for checking in which are getting more and more popular or an extended app that offers more to each checkin. Yelp! is attempting to tie checkins to restaurant reviews and hopefully lunch discounts. Google Offers will if not already attempting to tie Google Wallet users, Google Latitude and its future social network platform. WSJ has an interesting article on ways businesses can utilize location based networks.

Just to play devils advocate, the downside of the checkin craze is the voluntary sacrifice of privacy which will surely be exploited someday. Maybe a politician checks in at the wrong place. Maybe a lazy employee. Time will tell. But it is sure to happen. Thieves are probably also scouting social networks for patterns in checkins to detect when to break in. It seems farcical that people are willing to check in their current location while complaining about Facebook privacy policies.

Will it be a fad or an integral piece of the social media puzzle- time will tell.