Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Seth Odell, a Media Relations Assistant at UCLA, specializing in digital media marketing. He also blogs at AsMediaChanges. In this post, Seth opines about the undeveloped state of location based services in higher ed.
Location-based services are all the rage. Whether it’s Foursquare, Gowalla or MyTown, tech blogs are bombarding us with every reason imaginable for why these mobile tools are the future of marketing. But before you buy into the hype and sign up for all the geo-focused social networks you can find, here are my five reasons why higher ed can, for now, forget about location based services.
1) ROI? There is no ROI
You’ve gone out and gotten your university’s dinning halls, campus buildings and student store set up on your favorite location-based social networking game. Now how are you going to measure success? By counting the number of times John Q. Freshman checks-in at Jamba Juice? The truth is that it’s hard to assign a value to a check in, probably because the value of a check in is close to nothing.
2) Why pitch the niche?
Before we even start to integrate Foursquare, or any other location-based service, into our broader communications efforts we should stop and ask two key questions. First, how many people on campus are actually using these mobile games? And second, why are we spending our time and marketing resources pitching this tech-centric niche of our broader audience?
3) This is one organic garden that doesn’t need our help to grow
Users are already filling up these games with our campus locations. They don’t need us to do it for them. This is a very different platform than Facebook or Twitter and there just isn’t the same type of opportunity for an institutional voice to be heard.
4) When it comes to campus tours they just don’t cut it
One of the big ideas for higher ed that I keep seeing tossed around is that marketers could use services like Foursquare or Gowalla to produce self-guided campus tours. In case you missed it, BlueFuego’s Howard Kang debunked this myth back in April with a great blog post outlining exactly why self-guided tours built around these platforms will fail.
5) There’s still no clear leader
Even with Foursquare ahead of the pack in regards to marketing power, it’s far too early to tell who will be the last location site standing. Rather than run out and sign up for Foursquare, Gowalla, MyTown, Yelp, Brightkite, Orbster, Cause World, Whrrl, Rally Up, DeHood, SCVNGR, Loopt, WHERE, Skyhook Wireless and now Pespi Loot, maybe we should take the “wait and see” approach and let it play out a bit more first?
While they might not be a marketing goldmine for higher ed, location-based services are far from dead in the water. But let’s face it, we’re not Starbucks and we’re not giving out frappacinos. You’re welcome to keep the technology on your radar, but for now keep it out of your marketing playbook.