This article was published on June 21, 2010

What’s the Celebrity Effect in Geolocation Apps?

What’s the Celebrity Effect in Geolocation Apps?
Frank Schuil
Story by

Frank Schuil

Frank has co-founded several companies in the location-based services area: IRL Connect, Verbeterdebuurt and indoor positioning company Qubu Frank has co-founded several companies in the location-based services area: IRL Connect, Verbeterdebuurt and indoor positioning company Qubulus. He is focused on the practical use cases for new technology and the long term implications for consumers. Twitter: @FrankSchuil

Last year Twitter experienced the Oprah effect with their service when she spent a whole show on it.

The statistics showed a 43% increase in traffic compared to that previous Friday. Twitter is characterized by the vast amount of celebrities that are directly communicating with or broadcasting to their fans. It is hard to imagine what Twitter would be without such an influential user base. Probably it would still have gotten quite some traction, but would it have hit the 100 million mark this year? I think it’s fair to say it would’ve taken longer to break out of the early adopters segment into the early majority.

Much of what we know about growth of social networks and how to get traction has been explained in the brilliantly written Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell.  In “The Law of the Few” he describes how connectors, mavens and salesmen play a big role in fueling the virality of any message, product or initiative. Celebrities don’t fall under a specific category, because they can either be a connector, maven or sales person. However, whatever their role, they are the igniters who can leverage any social service to higher grounds and that’s why they play an important role in the success of Twitter.

If we extrapolate that line of thought to location-based services we discover something interesting. To date celebrities are not adopting any of the major location-based social networks. Where we see Facebook pages on Facebook, YouTube channels on YouTube and millions of followers on Twitter we see nothing on Foursquare, nothing on Brightkite, nothing on Gowalla. The closest attempt to a location-based celebrity initiative was Whrrl’s idea to put the Entourage characters on a map. You could discover the favorite bar of character Ari Gold or see where Turtle buys his caps. While this got them some good press coverage and made the fans happy, it’s not the same as being able to follow real celebrities around.

Some celebrity ideas that could work

It is obvious why celebrities would not want to draw any attention to their whereabouts in their private life, but it might be a missed opportunity for their professional life. Here are some suggestions I could see work:

  • Writers promoting their book signings, checking in when they arrive so random passengers in the mall become aware of their presence.
  • Actors going to the red carpet sharing location details and preparations before they step in that limo to arrive
  • Movie productions abroad, showing where the cast is, what is being shot that day and where they are travelling next
  • Athletes way to and from a game, places they like (and get paid to promote)
  • Royalty telling the crowd where they are and show what they did last week
  • TV hosts promoting their program by showing where they are preparing for the next one (semi-secret stuff)
  • Politicians showing that they aren’t asleep at the desk
  • Rock & pop stars to constantly show they are alive and kickin’
  • CEOs of famous companies telling the staff and everyone else where they are today and why (if they can)

Why is no one doing this? Can’t wait to hear what you come up with.

Thumb image