The Art of Checking-In With Entertainment-Based Apps

Over the past couple of years location-based applications have become more and more popular with those using mobile devices. The idea of these apps is that from a mobile device a user can check-in and tell others where he or she is – a movie theatre, a store, a restaurant, a library, and so on. The people behind the location-based services make the check-in worth the user’s time because of the game-like features and virtual and non-virtual incentives integrated into the apps. For example, with brightkite the person with the most check-ins at a particular location gets to be mayor of that location. Establishments that know how brightkite works can offer rewards to mayors. For example, a library might give the brightkite mayor of the institution a discount on copying costs. With FourSquare user rewards come in the form of badges. For example, a FourSquare user can check into a specific Starbucks a certain number of times and earn the barista badge. Mayorships and badges appear in the user’s profile on the service. That means others can learn about the rewards earned. Rewards can also be announced via Twitter and other social networks. As I mentioned in a 2008 blog post, the possibilities for location-based applications in library services to teens are many.

Now there’s a new way to check-in, and that’s application and web-based tools that give users the chance to check-in when participating in an entertainment related activity – reading a book, watching a TV show, viewing a movie, and so on.

A recent article on Mashable takes a good look at what these entertainment check-ins are all about and why they are popular. One thing that’s clear from the Mashable article is that these apps allow users to be a part of a cultural experience, in real-time, while also providing opportunities for social engagement even when physically not with others. As Jennifer Van Grove writes in Mashable:

In practice, this alternative check-in behavior is one that is more cultural and familiar than anything the location check-in offers. In fact, it emulates the way we experience entertainment in our everyday lives. The desire to share is unchanging — it’s how we share that will continue to evolve with the help of social media and entertainment check-in services.

As a librarian working with teens you might wonder, but how does this relate to the work that I do with teens in my library? Well:

  • Incentives are a big part of these services. GetGlue offers reward stickers to users who check-in and/or reach various milestones. For example, HBO offers stickers through GetGlue when viewers check-in to say they are watching True Blood, Hung, or Entourage. GetGlue stickers aren’t just virtual incentives, it’s also possible to have physical stickers mailed to a user’s location. The rewards from these apps are “cool” and desired by users of these services. Librarians don’t have to re-invent the wheel when it comes to teens and these entertainment check-in incentives. Instead we should be asking, how can we work with GetGlue and like services to create library-based incentives that will appeal to teens as much as a True Blood sticker does?
  • Connecting in real-time is important in order to talk about an entertainment experience as it’s happening. Consider the teens you know who are fans of reality TV shows like Top Chef and Project Runway and game shows like Minute to Win It. Can you provide real-time opportunities for teens to talk about what they are watching while they are watching it? Again, why re-invent the wheel? What do entertainment check-in services provide that you can harness as an opportunity to more successfully connect with teens? Can you learn something about what draws teens to specific types of content by checking out some of the real-time conversations going on related to popular TV shows and movies?
  • Entertainment check-in services provide recommendations for users based on their check-ins and their like and don’t like settings. What if the library were to use these recommendation engines in order to make collection development decisions or even to gain help when creating if you liked…. lists? Can that help expand and enhance the materials that librarians already provide?

Check-in apps are something we are going to be seeing more and more of in the near, and not so distant, future. Do you have ideas on how to use these apps with teens in your library community? Or, what about ideas on how to use the concepts behind these apps in the programs and services you develop with teens? Post your thoughts in the comments for this post.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.
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