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What Social Check-Ins Forgot: The Value of Landing Pages

I have yet to become a fan or user of social/location based check-in services though I am a fan of the beaconing strategy they employ. As I’ve written before, value creation on the web involves more than a one-to-one exchange of value. A trifecta of goal fulfillment between your product or service, your audience and a third party (advertiser, restaurant, etc.) is required to create value. This is where these services fall short for me and thanks to recent tweets from my friend and SEO guru Natasha Robinson I’ve finally realized why.

As Natasha says, the check-in links syndicated through social media verge on unclickable. The reason is rather simple. The landing pages provide no value to the referrer. Yet, the landing page is the spot where the triangulation of goals must align. The whole value chain for this product converges at the landing page.

While we can clearly see the potential of these services to provide tangible value to the establishment where check-ins occur and some (for now less tangible) value to the Mayor McCheeses and people doing the check-in, I would argue that the service only works if there is strong value being created in the stream. Without this newfangled linkbait, the fish ain’t gonna bite.

Let’s take a look at each of the content areas on Foursquare’s landing page and see what is and isn’t working for a referrer and the value triumvirate as a whole.

Foursquare_markedup
  

1) As a referrer I already know from my stream the name of the establishment. I already know that the person that has checked in here. There is huge immediately actionable value for the establishment though. Many locations would benefit from an announcement categorizing everyone who entered it. Of course that can provide parallel value to the person checking in.

2) The amount of check-ins and visitors does not really tell me much, especially for a new service that is building scale -- it’s very difficult for a naïve user to asses this value. Again, most of this value rests for the establishment.

3) The images of the Mayorship and the people who’ve been here have negligible transactional value to anyone.

4) Maybe most interesting for a location based service the map has very little value. In most cases the address above is sufficient information for a referrer at the moment of landing. The establishment and check-in already know where they are.

5) Tips can be helpful but their value is tied to a small segment of temporal traffic (the moment or prior to check-in). While this value is highly dynamic tips have the most shared value among troika of user, establishment and audience.

6) Tags are fairly generic. They likely provide the most value to Foursquare to provide classifications however it doesn’t appear that many users are adding tags. Also it appears there are some negative aspects to user tagging that can affect the value chain.

So the question remains, and of course has become heightened with Yelp adding a location based feature to its service last week and others soon to enter the fray, what improvements can Foursquare and other services make to encourage CTR on their linkbait and then create value from all from those visitors. That’s a rather big question so I’ll just tackle it form the referrer perspective.

As a landing page the primary success metric needs to be converting visitors to register for the service. As the product grows there are many more success metrics that can add value for optimization (e.g. new visitors to location pages that eventually check-in). For existing users there are also important metrics to optimize on against bounce rate/use. What good is a notification service if those notified don't take action?

As mentioned in the dissection above there is nothing on this page that is persuasive and inexplicably there is not a call to action. Is this a game? Then tell me what makes it fun or challenging. Is this a place to make plans? Then what are the tools that make that helpful and easy. Why do I want to use this service? What are the benefits to me? Until the answers to those questions are obvious landing on this page has no value for a referrer and products like this are missing a golden opportunity that may be as temporal as the very content they distribute.

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Comments

While I don't agree with every point up there, I do think you've nailed much of the problem with these services (and many other single feature web apps out there) - they have data they don't know what to do with. Worse than that, they have visitors they don't know how to deal with.

I think it largely stems from them not knowing what real purpose they serve.

Regardless of that problem, I think more people need to break down popular landing pages just as you have and ask why each section exists. You can learn a lot about what's right and what's wrong. One thing you're missing here though is a click through heat map, knowing if people are going some where from here (or converting -however that may be measured) is instrumental in knowing what to keep and what to change or discard.

Hi Jay,
good summary - but I think you're looking at the wrong page - I've been using foursquare since the beginning and have never even been to the online landing page - I only look at the WAP page or the blackberry app - and that's where they should be getting more conversion traction. Maybe you can do a follow-up on those.
Christian

The proper design of the landing pages are really vital to attract quality traffic for the websites and the online business in a position to generate revenues.

In order to provide real value to the user and to the location the social check-in app has to offer a content-rich interchange.

What do user want? more info about the location, menus, specials, history, reviews, coupons, sharing space.

What does the location want? reservations, feedback, reviews, input, customer shares, coupons, visitor demographics, community building, a place to tell their story.

The social-check-in apps have brought the parties together. Now they need to integrate the experiences to provide net added value.

Curious for your take on Socialgreat. I've always argued that it has use for the non-contributors (non content creators).

http://jonsteinberg.com/2009/12/reflections-on-nearing-1-million-checkins/

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