Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare Face Off in Location-based Services

Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Location Based Services World: It's Google, Apple, 1020 Placecast, Nokia's World tooIf you’ve ever used one of the Location-based apps like Foursquare, Gowalla or Brightkite, you’ve gone through the steps of checking in to a location to earn some sort of reward for being there.

Now that these early-stage start-ups have proven the interest in Location-based Services, Twitter and Facebook want in (joining Google, Apple and Nokia in trying to figure out how knowing a users’ location can lead to major mobile ad revenue.) In 2010, in the least, we’ll see both Twitter and Facebook’s take on LBS, a smart move for both companies which are experiencing massive mobile access growth.

Facebook, which according to a new comScore report saw access to its mobile browser grow by 112% in the past year, is expected to add location sharing in its users’ News Feeds, which may more than just intrude on the smaller companies’ courts. An article yesterday in the New York Times cited sources saying that Facebook would announce the news at its F8 developer conference in April.

Meanwhile, Twitter, which saw access to its mobile browser explode 347% in the past year, is already testing out a geolocation feature, which some users have seen in various beta forms as they go about their tweets. Foursquare, still a solid player in the game, will offer a free analytics tool and dashboard to give business owners information and stats about their visitors. These days, there isn’t a company in the consumer mobile space that isn’t interested in Location-based Services, and the market is ripe for innovation.

Knowing where users are is one of the most useful pieces of data available for mobile marketing. Mobile advertising and marketing companies like 1020 Placecast, which send customers offers on their phones when they are near a brick-and-mortar store of a brand they’ve opted to receive messages from, go about the mobile marketing in a different way then would a Facebook, Twitter, or Foursquare.

For the social media upstarts of the world, especially Facebook and Twitter, the audience is much wider. For Facebook, the largest social network with over 400 million users who are mostly connected to their real-life friends and family, users will be most likely to share where they are at any given moment. On the other hand, the type of person willing to share their location with the masses on Twitter and Foursquare is still a rare breed. That breed may still be valuable to target and for marketers, but Facebook has the opportunity to offer Location-based Services to a much larger audience, and as always they will try their best to appease privacy and business needs.

Also in the game, big mobile players Google, Apple and Nokia are also working on understanding where advertising dollars and mobile location meet. Apple is looking to use its GPS data for mobile advertising and Nokia is a key player in the international LBS market with their Ovi maps coming integrated with their phones for free.

Google is trying desperately to get its social Buzz going, but it’s struggling to find the sweet spot in social media. TechCrunch states “It’s a mess,” and for the time being, I agree. However, Google’s Location-based Advertising patent won earlier this month may help them in the long run if they can ever get their buzz going. Filed six years ago, the patent is fairly broad. It covers using location for targeting, setting a minimum price bid for an ad, offering performance analytics, and modifying the content of an ad.