Why Facebook Bought Gowalla and 4 Other Location Marketing Updates

by Schneider Mike on Dec 05, 2011
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Editor’s Note: Schneider Mike wrote the book on Location (with Aaron Strout).
Check it out here, Location Based Marketing For Dummies.

There’s a lot happening that you should consider if you are talking about location-based (or local) marketing.

The last year has seen a great deal of chaos with apps popping up all over the place and also with the acquisitions of WHERE, Whrrl and most recently Gowalla by giants eBay, Groupon and Facebook.

Overall though, I am pleased with the way that things are shaking out. Developers, brands and marketers are starting to realize that location is not the app, it’s a feature that when used as part of a natural or interesting behavior can give you some very useful information about the people you are interested in.

Here are 5 things to keep you in the loop on the current state of location based marketing.

1. Loyalty Is Trending

You may have heard the buzzword “SoLoMo,” which is the convergence of social and location in a mobile environment. Mobile is one of the ways that location becomes instantly relevant because knowing where someone is helps you deliver a message that they need at that place.

But what if you can add commerce to the mix?

In 2010, Anne Mai Bertelsen and I wrote a paper on the convergence of social, location and commerce. and much of it is starting to come true with American Express’s partnership with foursquare, Mogl’s partnership with Visa and Mastercard and the emergence of all new payment networks like SCVNGR’s LevelUp and Dwolla, the former of which is an also an inverted deals network.

2. Location Apps Are Loving Consumer Intent

There are several apps exists that allow people to state their intentions along with their location. Two of these are Ditto and Forecast. People are semantically (which means it’s easy to analyze) expressing their location and in the case of ditto, what they are in the mood to do or buy.

Brands still have a unique opportunity to be able to reach out to these CEOs who are gaining momentum with their user based but are still searching for their business models. It’s a no-brainer to me that some brand should search ditto for people who want pizza and give them a deal and a seat at the bar. The first time that happens, the entire game changes.

3. Building A Location App is Easier Than Ever

If you are tech savvy (or have some tech savvy developers), try experimenting with some of the APIs. Foursquare’s in particular is pretty amazing and stops you from having to invent your own checkins, places, tips etc. You don’t need to wait for someone else to build your app, you can do it yourself.

4. What about Gowalla?

Glad you asked.

With Facebook’s (confirmed) acquisition of Gowalla, I expect to see a much improved Facebook mobile experience. Gowalla is a master when it comes creating beautiful experiences. And Facebook will finally give them the audience they deserve.

I think in the near term the Gowalla team will focus on making the mobile timeline more usable. I see them eventually building in Gowalla-like stories that generate automatically based on location or status updated. For example, if you are on a trip Gowalla will make a cute little map graphic that says: Schneidermike flew from BOS to AUS to SFO.

5. And what is this Path?

The hottest app right now however is Path. CEO Dave Morin is an ex-Facebook employee who left the company to build a better mobile experience. The idea of the application is that you can share your life with a few close friends in the form of status updates, photos, videos and even check-ins.

It’s private, it’s easy and the latest iteration is absolutely gorgeous. In fact, I think it’s the new gold standard for mobile application development. I am not sure (yet) if people are going to rush to Path for the long haul. But I am certain that people will try to copy the design patterns.


There’s a lot of volatility in the space, but there is also a lot of opportunity for brands and marketers to gain competitive advantage over their enemies for relatively short money.


Image source: Shutterstock.com

Post Author

@SchneiderMike is Senior Vice President, Director Digital Incubator for Allen & Gerritsen, ranked by Advertising Age as one of the Top 50 Independent advertising agencies in the US. The DInc is an emerging technology lab responsible for building products...

  • I didn’t even get to recommendation engines and the fact that they could be the next paid mobile search buys… Think Cleversense’s Alfred, (now dead) Bizzy, Scoville etc. Perhaps that’s another future post Jason? 

  • Summer Joy

    Great post Mike! I discovered Path at SXSW this past year and was pretty impressed with it too :) 

  • Tyson Goodridge

    Thanks Mike– good schtuff. I sort of gave up on Path last year, but hmmm, maybe I should go back there?….stay tuned..

  • Great post Mike. 

    I’m particularly interested in Path because of it’s limited number of friends per person, and in the idea of setting one’s “shopping mood” to see what kinds of offers it drags in… 

    I’d love an app where I walk into a mall or shopping district, set my “status” to shopping for XYZ and offers and discounts come pouring in along with step by step directions to the one I choose, maybe even with an opportunity to reserve one of the items on offer (if it’s a specific item). One might set the distance of influence depending on whether you are driving or walking. It would be MOST fascinating on a  Black Friday to see this at work…

  • Great post, very insightful! 

    I gave up on Path a while ago because they took WAY too long to develop an Android version. It made no sense for me to have an app that I couldn’t use other than viewing maybe ONE other person’s Path for a year or so…

    I agree that the limitation of these sharing groups is going to be what’s next. Beluga also got scooped up by Facebook (sort of see their model in the latest iteration with the “smart groups” Facebook develops for you, Close Friends, etc.), so that’s right on track. 

    Is there really any room for startups to thrive in this tech ecosystem now? It’s a good thing for the companies to be acquired by the larger ones, but will that stifle diversity and creativity in the long run?

  • Oh don’t you worry… Facebook is a cloner, and a bad one. They just keep putting garbage on top of flawed architecture, and it will cave in soon enough. If not, they will ruin their mobile 2.0 experience as well. They are really good at it.

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