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More smartphone users apt to disclose their physical location

Posting in Cities

New Pew Research data shows more American adults are broadcasting their whereabouts, whether they know it or not. The result: new immediacy for advertising and marketing services.

Apparently, more smartphone users are bragging about their location, location, location -- and that could play right into the mobile marketing strategy that your company should be developing.

Close to three-quarters of adult smartphone users (74 percent) are using features that make use of the real-time location-based information, which essentially means they are broadcasting their whereabouts implicitly. That's a dramatic increase from 55 percent who were doing the same thing as of May 2011.

Approximately 18 percent of smartphone users are sharing that information on purpose, checking in with so-called geosocial services such as Foursquare or Gowalla (which is now part of Facebook). This compares with 11 percent of those surveyed in May 2011.

This data comes from the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, and it covers the opinions of 2,253 adults. The research was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates.

From a big-picture perspective, Pew Research figures that 41 percent of all adults (not just those using smartphones) are making use of location-based information while approximately 10 percent are using a geosocial service.

Here are some demographic highlights from the research:

  • Women were slightly more likely than men to use a geosocial service
  • Adults aged 18 to 29 were more likely to check in that other age groups
  • Hispanic individuals (both English and Spanish speaking)
  • Smartphone users in lower income households were less likely to use location-based information services, but they were more likely to use geosocial services
  • The adult usage trends regarding geosocial services mapped closely to the acceptance among teenagers

You could argue against the wisdom of all this disclosure (do you really want people to know when your home is empty or if you're someplace you're note supposed to be), location information is exactly what mobile marketers need to make their services more efficient.

Social network Foursquare sees location information as essential for helping to monetize its social network. The company's co-founder and CEO, Dennis Crowley, recently told The Wall Street Journal that it plans to let local merchants make personalized offers starting in July in a redesigned version of its mobile application. That means the next time someone check ins at a participating business, he or she could received a coupon on the spot. Crowley told the WSJ:

"We're getting really good at connecting people with places, and connecting those places with people. We're finding ways to do this algorithmically. Some of the new products we are working on, once a person lands in a city, Foursquare will start to guid him toward those places that I've been to or his other friends have been to. Instead of serving up places we think you might be interested in, we can do the same thing for businesses and [tell them] these are the folks that are most likely to come here, based upon their check-in habits, based upon the places they've been to and their friends have been."

How's that for immediacy?

As Facebook integrates the Gowalla service into its Timeline feature, Facebook uses will start to see "presence" creep into their postings. That's another data point that advertisers and mobile marketers are sure to covet.

Oh, and by the way, Facebook mobile users now spend more time on the social network during the average month than they do with their computer. The average Facebook mobile user spend 441 minutes on the social network in March 2012, according to the comScore Mobile Metrix 2.0, a new mobile app tracking service.

That's about 42 minutes more than the average time spent access Facebook during the month via computer.

Foursquare users spent about 146 minutes there during the month, which was the second highest number, higher than for Twitter.

Image credit: Roland Tanglao

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure