Facebook's Timing Is Perfect: Just 4% of Online Americans Use Location Services

location app

Pew Research has been quizzing Americans about the location-based smartphone frenzy, and found that a mere 4% of mobile Internet users employ location-based services such as Foursquare or Gowalla or Latitude. Did Facebook launch its own location-based services at the perfect time to kick-start a real location-based craze?

Pew spoke to just over 3,000 adults over 18 in the U.S. between early August and mid-September, so the data is about as up-to-date as it gets: Only 4% of "online Americans" use a location-based service that lets them check-in and share their location, or to locate where their friends are. Even when you constrain it to people who go online with their cell phone, the number is an anemic 7%.

The 18-29 years-old age group is the most dominant, with 8% of these users checking-in. Hispanic users are the most avid, at 10%, with white users at 3% and black users at 5%. Twice as many men use a location-based service than women.

These stats are surprising—check-in games are everywhere, in the media, at the water cooler, on your smartphone. But we're not actually using them. This has big implications for location-based advertising and all the marketing efforts being directed here, as well as location-based social networking and a host of similar technologies.

But is that all about to change? Facebook's announcement may have felt slightly disappointing yesterday, but it is certain that Zuckerberg's social network is keen to dominate the location-based scene with Places and Deals. Remember that more than half a billion people use Facebook. Pew's statistics for how many people use location services in 2011 will likely be very different (as will be all of our attitudes to the privacy matters concerning sharing our location).

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