In honor of Twitter’s fourth birthday a few weeks ago, Mashable published a story today detailing the 5 Big Twitter Trends to Follow Right Now. From the @anywhere API to the increasing niche-ification of the Twitterverse, I think Jennifer Van Grove was spot on with all of her predictions.
But, I also think she missed a pretty big one – location. Whether you’re talking about services like Foursquare, Gowalla and Loopt literally sending updates about where you’re at straight to your Twitter stream, or about sites like Yelp adding location data to the aggregated content they deliver across multiple platforms (of which Twitter is only one), location is – at least imho – about to become the big buzzword of 2010. And the Twittersphere is no exception.
When you’ve got hundreds of cable channels, millions of websites, scores of local businesses to choose from, countless products being sold at you and to you at any given time and infinite possibilities for content to be delivered directly to your device of choice – anywhere, any time – it’s hard to know how to filter all of that into a manageable, meaningful stream. Which is why more and more people are relying on recommendations, whether direct or indirect, from people they know and/or trust. Emphasis on the ‘and/or’.
Word of mouth marketing has always been a pretty powerful tool. But social media – especially Twitter – has helped its power increase exponentially, and helped it to become more location-based than ever. Every time you Tweet about a TV show, del.ici.ous a site you digg or check in before you chow down, you’re sharing your location. And I’m not just talking about the physical place you’re standing in.
I’m talking about where you are, what you’re doing and what you think of it – whether that’s your couch, your car or your favorite spot in cyberspace. The nature of the social web, where connections are often created via ever-expanding concentric circles of friends, friends of friends, followers of friends of friends, etc. means that every time you Tweet, you could be sharing that location with a potentially infinite number of other people.
For some people (cough, cough, mom), this is truly terrifying. (Not that this stops my mom from regularly checking the Twitter stream on my blog to see where I am, what I’m doing and what I’m thinking). But, to her and the people like her, this trend signals the loss of privacy, the growth of groupthink, the death of deep, meaningful human relationships and all sorts of other understandably apocalyptic phenomena.
Personally, I find the social sharing of location data to be far from apocalyptic. First of all, it helps level the playing field, by allowing mom and pop advertisers to compete with the big box stores and their even bigger budgets. When the best advertising comes courtesy of your customers, you get rewarded for producing quality goods at reasonable prices – not just being able to afford the latest and greatest celebrity spokesperson.
And, of course, whether you’re looking for the best source of political news or the best spot to score a dirty martini, isn’t it better to hear recommendations from reviewers you trust – not just the latest and greatest celebrity spokesperson? Play your followeds right, and you might even find yourself getting exposed to things you never would have seen, heard or done otherwise.
All of which makes location sharing some pretty powerful stuff. And – at least in my opinion – it also makes it Twitter Trend #6 worth watching in 2010.