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1 in 5 Smartphone Owners Are “Checking-In” – What This Means for Real Estate

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Did you check-in today on Foursquare? How about Facebook Places? Gowalla?

For me, “checking in” is a part of pretty much my daily routine. I love seeing where my friends and colleagues are checking into, I love all the “badges” and gaming aspect of it, and of course I love the specials that may places are now (finally) offering for those of us who check-in.

Checking in is becoming more and more popular. The latest ComScore report, released a few days ago revealed that nearly 1 in 5 smartphone owners access check-in services via their mobile device.

I was pretty amazed by that statistic. I remember just a little over a year ago – January 2010, sitting backstage at Real Estate Connect NYC and hearing Dennis Crowley explain Foursquare. At the time I had heard of it, had even downloaded the app onto my phone, but really didn’t “get it.” Fast-forward 14 months later, and now I’m a bit “check-in obsessed!”

Here are a few interesting facts from the report:

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  • 70 percent of mobile users are “checking-in” from an Android or Apple phone
  • 16.7 million U.S. mobile subscribers used location-based “check-in” services on their phones in March 2011, representing 7.1 percent of the entire mobile population. 1
  • 2.7 million check-in users did so on a smartphone, representing 17.6 percent of the smartphone population.

“Although still in their relative infancy, location-based mobile check-in services are seeing rather impressive adoption among smartphone users,” said Mark Donovan, comScore senior vice president of mobile. “The ability to interact with consumers on this micro-local level through special offers, deals and other incentives provides brands with the real-time opportunity to engage consumers through their mobile device.”

So who exactly is checking in? I sadly do not fall into this demographic anymore :), but according to the report, 18-34 year-olds account for nearly 60% of check-in service user.

So how exactly does this affect real estate? Well, we are starting to see brokerages adopting creative social media strategies, like the ‘Race for the Home’ event that Prudential Georgia Realty is doing. They are a real estate brokerage based in metro Atlanta, and have teamed up with property search site HomeFinder.com and mobile gaming platform SCVNGR to offer some 500 prospective homebuyers the chance to compete for a $15,000 down payment on a home purchase. We’ve also see The Corcoran Group embrace Foursquare and is now a major brand on Foursquare. Foursquare fits beautifully into Corcoran’s core brand ideas in that the process of searching for a home is just as much about what’s outside of the 4 walls than it is inside.

Beyond checking in – I think there is a greater lesson here: mobile check-in service users display strong propensity for mobile media usage.

According to the report, more than 95 percent of check-in service users used their mobile browser or applications. Nearly 62 percent accessed news. Check-in user behavior was also consistent with that of traditional early adopters, with 40.3 percent of users accessing tech news and 28.2 percent owning a media tablet, both significantly higher than average.

Still wondering where I am going with this? Here’s my point – if 1 in 5 people who have a smartphone are “checking in” around town AND 60% of 18-34 year olds are checking in – then that means a huge portion of your clientele (or perhaps your clientele’s adult children who are also potential clients) are using mobile devices when searching for property.

Contrary to popular belief, a mobile version of your site is not just a smaller version of your site on a tiny screen! A mobile optimized version of your site is a site that displays information accurately and in an easy to read format on a smartphone. If your website is not mobile optimized – you are missing a HUGE portion of your audience. Do you get clients who talk to you about listings they saw on Realtor.com, Zillow or Trulia instead of your site or your broker site? Why do you think that is? This could be a whole other blog post in and of itself – but a possible reason is all of those sites are mobile optimized AND they all have awesome apps that make searching for homes for sale super easy.

What is really exciting is that optimizing your site for mobile is probably easier than most people would think. There are tons of qualified web designers out there that can do this for you and/or create an app for your site. Not sure where to start? Ask your colleagues? Post a note on Facebook that you are looking for local recomendations.

Creating a real estate app with MLS data is also easier than you think. Boopsie and Smarter Agent are two excellent real estate choices I would recommend.

What do you think is the future of the check-in and location based marketing? Is your site mobile optimized or do you have an app your clients can use to search for homes? I would really like to have a discussion about this and get your thoughts – please leave me a comment below!

Written by: Katie Lance, Social Media Director, Inman News, @katielance