Twitter is testing out a new feature that will enable businesses to claim their Place--expanding the functionality of its geolocation feature. The move could make Twitter Places much more valuable as a business tool and potential marketing platform, and puts Twitter in direct competition with Facebook and Foursquare.
A Mashable post reports that Twitter headquarters has been claimed, but the feature is not yet widely available. The post includes a statement from Twitter explaining, "Claiming Twitter Places is not available at this time. We're experimenting with a variety features. Allowing businesses to claim a Place is a natural thing to consider for the future."
While I am sure it is true that Twitter is considering and testing a variety of new features and functions at any given time, the statement from Twitter seems a tad overly coy. Given the rise of services like Foursquare and Gowalla, and the introduction of Facebook Deals for Facebook Places, it seems like an obvious extension of location-based services for Twitter.
Twitter has had the Places feature for quite a while. Users can add precise geolocation data along with their 140-character tweets so everyone will know precisely where they were when the San Francisco Giants won the World Series, or when they ate the greatest hot dog they've ever tasted. Unfortunately, without something more behind the checking-in, it is nothing more than a trivial novelty.
That is the same issue previously faced by Facebook Places. It was interesting for a while, but did not provide any incentive for users to actually check-in on any regular basis. With Facebook Deals, though, businesses now have a motivation to set up and claim their Facebook Place as a marketing platform, and Facebook users have a reason to check-in.
A report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project recently found that only four percent of online adults actually use location-based check-in services--questioning the validity of these tools as anything but a gimmick. However, while Foursquare and Gowalla may be more niche services, Facebook and Twitter are commonly, and frequently used tools for millions upon millions of mobile users.
With Facebook expanding the value of location-based check-in for its 200 million plus mobile users, and Twitter possibly broadening the horizons of its geolocation platform to provide more value for businesses and users, the concept will very quickly become mainstream, and that four percent figure will skyrocket.
As of now, the Twitter HQ is the only claimed Place on Twitter, and there doesn't appear to be any impending agenda to roll it out the general public. But, Facebook, Foursquare, and Gowalla should be on notice that it's probably coming soon, and businesses and users should recognize that location-based check-in is here to stay.