Geo marketing the next wave in social networking

Home builders can benefit from location-based social networking tools like Google Places and Gowalla. Two real estate marketing experts offer tips for builders.

By Andrew Ryan and Mark Hickman | April 15, 2012
Geo marketing the next wave in social networking

As social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter become more popular around the globe, recent trends indicate that the next wave of social networking has already arrived with mobile location-based or geo-marketing platforms such as Foursquare, Gowalla, and Yelp.

These platforms allow users to “check in” on mobile devices at locations — typically restaurants, shops, attractions, and other businesses — to share where they are with friends and other users and post comments or reviews about their location. Other platforms, such as Facebook and Google, offer location-sharing features as an integrated option on their standard or mobile websites.

Although location-based social media platforms are still evolving, their current growth mirrors other successful services such as Twitter. Home builders can use these new tools to generate buzz and differentiate their properties. The location aspect of these geo-marketing platforms perfectly complements the real estate industry, but builders must be strategic and deliberative in their approach. It is not enough to simply create places for people to check in; users must have a reason to check in and post commentary.

An effective strategy in other industries has been the use of incentives such as coupons, exclusive offers, and contests to encourage the use of location-based platforms. Builders can use these tactics as well. For example, builders could ask visitors to check in at homes for a chance to win a gift card. At open houses, listing brokers or builders could offer incentives for visiting agents and brokers to check in and post commentary about the property.

Another advantage of these platforms is their ability to increase a builder’s visibility. These platforms can be linked with each other so check-ins are multiplied across networks, providing further awareness of a house or neighborhood. By integrating these tools, home builders can leverage their existing online networks and the networks of their followers.

The most popular sites are listed below and should be considered by home builders:

  • Facebook A check-in feature on Facebook’s standard and mobile websites and smartphone applications brings location-based marketing to the social media behemoth.
  • Foursquare Currently the most widely used location-based social media platform, Foursquare boasts more than 10 million users.
  • Google Places Google Places integrates Google’s dominant search engine with its popular maps function to bring a more standard website experience for users to share and rate their locations, and for businesses to have an online listing.
  • Gowalla Gowalla, recently purchased by Facebook, describes itself as a “social travel guide” and is growing in popularity. 
  • Yelp Similar to Google Places but with more robust features and user interface, Yelp has a standard website and a popular smartphone application.

Andrew Ryan and Mark Hickman are partners with Commonwealth Partnerships, a Virginia-based marketing and business development firm that specializes in assisting companies working within the real estate industry, including home builders. They also are co-authors of the Virginia Real Estate Blog ( Contact them at and



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