Locals ‘check in’ with location applications

By Alyssa Murfey | gargoyle@flagler.edu

Planet Fitness Manager Ivy Coss surveys the gym area, spotting many of her clients speckled around the equipment, heads down, focused on their iPhones and Blackberries. However, many are not listening to music or texting a friend, but rather “checking-in.”

The popular wave of geo-location applications, like Places, Foursquare and Gowalla, connect to social networks, enabling users to broadcast their location to friends while building relationships with businesses. In St. Augustine, Planet Fitness is a popular check-in spot for the Places application, powered through Facebook and Google.

Coss said she believes the success may have something to do with the social aspect of the applications.

“People in St. Augustine trust their friends more than any other marketing tool,” she said.

According to Forbes, these location-based services offer great tools for businesses.

“Internet marketers see it as a better way to target consumers, and even re-target them to close a sale,” the website said.

Flagler College student Jessica Reynolds, 20, said she checks in at least twice a week at Planet Fitness through Places. Reynolds said it takes less than two minutes to check in on her iPhone and she uses Places for “interesting places, like Planet Fitness or Crazy Dogs.”

“Instead of putting up a status on Facebook, I can put in the place I’m at and tag my friends,” Reynolds said.

Domingo Casillas, owner of Schmagel’s Bagels, said he uses Places to draw students, like Reynolds, to his door downtown. Casillas said he offers deals for customers who check-in via their phones at his business.

“We get people who check-in and get stuff like two for one bagels or a free iced coffee with any purchase,” he said.

Casillas said he gets 25 to 30 check-ins a week. Because Schmagel’s delivers in the downtown area from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m, he said he has also been using Facebook for orders.

“It works because friends tell friends,” he said.

Originally, Casillas said he started with Foursquare, another geo-location application, but said it didn’t take off. He said Foursquare would be successful in more urban areas than St. Augustine.

“It didn’t work for me, but Facebook came out with Places and that went really well,” he said. “I try to direct people to my Foursquare, but it’s just not catching on.”

Flagler College student Stevie Schenk, 21, said he chooses an alternative geo-location service called Gowalla.

“I prefer Gowalla because it’s much better designed,” Schenk said. “It has a much easier user interface and more robust features.”

According to Tecca.com, Gowalla allows its users to create passports of the places they have visited.

“Imagine Gowalla as a kind of virtual passport,” the website said. “You get it stamped for locations you check-in at, and sometimes you’ll get a little bonus. If you like, you can add pictures of where you’re checked in.”

However, some people approach location-based services with caution, because they broadcast user location to the world.

According to a recent survey by Microsoft of 1,500 people, 83 percent said they had general fears for their privacy when using location-based applications.

However, Reynolds said she is not concerned with safety when she checks-in because she said she plays it smart.

“I only check-in at places where I want people to know where I am,” Reynolds said. “I would never check-in at home.”

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