On the user experience side, it’s faster and easier to check in on your phone than it is to type a status update. On the business side, structured check-in data tied to an object (place, product, merchant) is far more useful and valuable than free form status updates scattered in an unstructured firehose.
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Conceptually, it seems to be a no brainer that check-ins are destined to expand beyond the realm of location sharing.
And indeed, it’s already happening.
Today we’ll hear from two of the thought leaders in bringing the check-in gesture beyond location; Alex Iskold of media check-in network GetGlue (site, iPhone, iPad, Android) and Vish Prabhakara from sports check-in network Fanvibe (site, iPhone).
I asked Alex and Vish a series of questions about the rise of the non geo check-in, its strategic importance to brands and marketers, and how this space might evolve.
Here we go.
Q: Can you talk about the importance of the check-in gesture as it relates to your company?
Alex (GetGlue): Check-in on GetGlue is a light-weight way to share the entertainment with friends. Watching a show or listening to music or reading a book is something that people enjoy all the time and GetGlue makes it easy to tell everyone.
Vish (Fanvibe): Check-in is a great feature for fans to announce “I’m here and I’m watching!”. Its taking on such a broader meaning than just physically being at a location – its a signal about what you are doing. Fans love simple ways to cheer and express their fandom. Checking-in on Fanvibe is the simplest way to do that. Once you do that, there’s lots of stuff you can do – pick the winner, answer prediction questions, shout (and cross-post to Twitter/Fbook/4sq, etc).
Q: Why do you think the check-in has expanded beyond location?
Alex (GetGlue): There are a few reasons. First of all it is a simple and familiar gesture.
It signifies attention, it says I am here. Compare to LIKES check-ins can
be repetitive and this makes them more powerful. Secondly, it is a cool
concept, it is fun and it resonates with people, which is why it is spreading quickly.
Vish (Fanvibe): People have been saying they are doing things for ever – via text, via facebook status, via a tweet. A check-in just does that for you in a button, and sends it to the right people for the right context. You can’t tweet every game you watch, but you can check-in on Fanvibe.
Alex (GetGlue): Aggregated check-ins are interested because big brands like HBO are looking to learn more about their audience. There is a big disconnect now, and services like GetGlue help bridge the gap. What is more interesting, is that there is a big power hidden inside the aggregate check-ins. When thousands of people on GetGlue check-in to Boardwalk Empire, millions of friends and followers are reached on Facebook and Twitter. This is very exciting to the brands, because it drives tune in and brand awareness.
Vish (Fanvibe): ESPN is great at collecting large checks from large companies – to the tune of about $6bn a year. However, they make virtually zero compared to that direct from the consumer. Check-ins let you drive transactions for fans favorite teams, opening up the multiple billions of dollars fans spend every year out of their pocket in a scalable fashion. In addition, you can do cool, innovative sponsorships utilizing the game mechanics Fanvibe provides. We’ve already done the Kia NBA Tip-off badge, and there are more coming!
Q. Can you share any check-in volume and trends?
Alex (GetGlue): GetGlue receives over 10 million ratings and checkins per month.
Vish (Fanvibe): A month ago, we looked at our data and realized we doubled check-ins in the two prior months. Today, we’ve doubled it again in just one month. Our growth is accelerating significantly
Q. How do you see check-ins evolving 1,2,3 years into the future?
Alex (GetGlue): Hard to say, but I can tell you a few things I believe. I think that check-ins
are coupons in the end of the day, you need to provide tangible discounts for
people who are checking in. Also, check-ins maybe around for a long time
because they are a very simple gesture, people get how to do that.
And finally, I don’t think that check-ins alone create sustainable user engagement.
You need more for people to stay engaged, including taste profile, recommendations,
rewards, discounts – more utility to make the service sticky and mainstream.
Vish (Fanvibe): Its all about what comes after the check-in, with the right context. We provide scores, stats, and more. Without that, the check-in would be pointless. That’s why Hot Potato didn’t grow like crazy – it was just a better Twitter. That’s hard for a user. But the companies that provide lots of value behind the check-in are the ones that will win.
Q. Will we ever see the implicit / automatic check in overtake the explicit check in?
Alex (GetGlue): Possibly, but I don’t think likely. I am hearing some brands discussing this, but from my personal experience people prefer control and don’t like things that
Vish (Fanvibe): I think if the user opts-in, sure. I could say “Yes cablebox, check me in to every game I watch”. Or “Yes, iPhone, check me in to every starbucks i walk into, but NOT every company i’m interviewing at”. Or I could authorize certain people to see my auto-checkins, and I would have to explicitly share others. Its a complicated privacy puzzle that will take years to sort out, i believe.
The check in gesture is still in its infancy. Foursquare took a behavior (location sharing) that was already happening all over the web in a clunky and unstructured way, and made it fun, simple, and game-like. It worked.
Upstarts like GetGlue and Fanvibe are doing the same for other pre-existing behaviors – the consumption of media and sports.
With the rise of the mobile device as a computing platform, I believe that the check-in gesture is extremely well positioned to encroach on the status update as a preferred form of one to many updates and self expression.
Bring on the vertical players.
Update: For more on the non geo check-in, see this GigaOm piece on Meebo.