If you have just discovered social location sharing applications (apps) like Foursquare, Gowalla, Whrrl, Yelp and others then you have stumbled upon something that has actually existed for around 6 years. Not exactly the “latest” thing in social media.

The reason that these apps are suddenly so zeitgeist is that marketers are figuring out how to use these platforms for communication, both branded and organic. The major difference between the two is of course payment. Like the difference between earned media and bought media.

Eighteen months ago you could get away with rewarding the early adopters of these apps with things like a cup of coffee. Gradually, over the past year, the rewards have had to increase in value to become an inducement. Jimmy Choo gave away pairs of sneakers worth $600 each using a campaign based on Foursquare.

JetBlue has recently introduced their Go Places app which ties into Facebook Places and rewards check-ins that contain the hashtag #jetblue in them with airline reward points (you have to be a member of their reward program as well). It is possible, with enough check-ins to receive a free flight, which is quite an inducement.

As brands attempt to draw consumers into sharing their location with them, social consumers, who are always more savvy than general consumers, are seeking higher value rewards for their efforts. After all, sharing your location costs both time and privacy, something that the social consumer is acutely aware of.

Marketers now have to think beyond the check-in. They have to see the check-in as a gateway not an end point. Certainly, the JetBlue campaign does that, they are looking to see increased membership of their frequent flyer program and their TrueBlue community, which of course gives them an increased number of touch point opportunities with users of social location apps.

So if you are considering using social location sharing apps like Foursquare, Gowalla or Facebook Places as part of your marketing mix think about why you are doing this, what is the ultimate goal for your organization and what rewards are you going to offer the social location sharer? Understanding how you can link these campaigns to other communication initiatives is very important and will ultimately allow an organization to offer better rewards, which in turn act as a higher incentive for users to join in.