So earlier today I ranted about loose connections on location based services and individuals using them. People befriending people/loose connections on foursquare/gowalla are a pet peeve, but businesses misusing location based services is a slightly more annoying and disappointing to be frank. I expect lots of people to take the plunge and try things out, but i also expect companies to do some research before risking their brand and social capital blindly.

So how should a business be using location based services?
If you’ve got a physical presence, you need to claim your venue. Most services offer a means to do so. Yelp, foursquare, and a bunch of the others which are centered around venues, or where actual locations are the “social object.” Businesses with physical presences should be treading lightly into these waters for now. They should be offering discounts for checking in, for mayorships, for regular patronage. These things build brand capital with your customers. If the deal is enticing enough, you can draw in people who would otherwise be ignoring your business. These tools are here for you to put names/faces to your largely anonymous customers you’ve been either serving or hoping to serve for years. Thousands of articles are out there discussing the basic tips for building up your LBS presence, and they all boil down to the following: offer something compelling, and reward your regulars. Those are tips that we should all be following in general.

How businesses should not be using location based services
If you run a physical business, please please please don’t create a regular human account and send people friend requests. Your business isn’t MOVING anywhere, you can’t check in at other places, you’re basically just wasting your social capital. I’m going to call out one of the local newspapers for sending me a friend request and befriending 44 others, but having 0 check-ins, 0 activity. I can understand if they were doing this to secure a username, but if that’s your objective, grab the username, and keep it quiet until there is a tangible use for it. Don’t waste my attention capital sending out friend requests to people when there are no communication tools built into foursquare that you can use yet. [edit: I spoke to them after, and that is exactly what they were doing, securing a username. So they get a pass for now. 😉 ]

So don’t waste your social capital. If you’re a business owner and want to be active in foursquare, do it as yourself for now, or claim your venue. Otherwise you’re just missing the point.