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Where are you? What are you doing?

Yet another category of social networking sites is growing by leaps and bounds, and this one is worth paying attention to. ?I’m talking about sites like Foursquare and Gowalla, which let users “check in” and let friends know where they are. ?Users “list” places, thus adding them to the directory.

header_logged_outFor illustrative purposes, I’ll walk through Foursquare: first, you can use an internet-enabled phone or just one with SMS texting capabilities. ?You must download the app to your phone. ?You can instantly link to your address book, Facebook and Twitter accounts to see where your friends are hanging out…and if they’re near you. ?Then, tell your friends where you are–check in to one of the places that Foursquare lists based on your GPS location.

Users are encouraged to leave tips when checking in i.e.) “Order the Inside-Out Burger” and be as informative as possible! ? Remember, if the place you are at isn’t listed in Foursquare, you can add it. ?These sites are used to check out tips, recommendations, find things to do (or avoid) and there is even a gaming component. ?Users can unlock “badges” and earn points based on where, when and how often you visit a location and check in. ?What some consider to be the ultimate “get” on Foursquare…becoming the Mayor of a location. ?Simply be the one to check in the most…and you become the Mayor.

Businesses are wise to pay attention–they can see who the regulars are and even reward them for their continued business. ?It also shows the online community that your business is in-the-know on the latest in online and mobile communication tools.

Gowalla is similar in function but has a few differences. ?Gowalla prevents you from checking in to a location through the site unless you are physically there. ?With Foursquare, you can check in from anywhere, thus allowing you to disguise your whereabouts. ?(But you won’t earn rewards unless you are telling the truth!)

With Gowalla, each location has a Top 10 List of Users. ?Like Foursquare, you can collect virtual swag in the form of pins and stamps. ?How are you using location-sharing services? ?In your personal life? ?For clients?

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