It’s no secret that both Foursquare and Gowalla are expanding their location-based social networks past the check-in, developing other incentives for consumers to use the services. Gowalla, in particular, has focused on adding innovative features to its platform to make the social network more interactive, through photos and comments. Most recently, the startup added local highlights, which allows users to essentially tap into their social graph to not only see what’s popular in a particular location, but also provide contextual information around what are the best sights, places, restaurants and activities in a particular locale. Today, Gowalla is adding a few more features for businesses that help the network move beyond the check-in, including City Pages, Verified Businesses and Venues; and the Stamp Calendar.
Gowalla will now include City Pages for more than 30 metro areas worldwide. For a given metropolis, Gowalla will combine all of the most popular happenings, places, and activities in a single page, courtesy of the network’s Highlights feature. City Pages will also include a map of local activity that shows where the most check-ins are taking place and includes the best spots that are highlighted by other users. Since Highlights launched, more than 10,000 Passport Holders have added 30,000 Highlights worldwide. So for example, the Austin city page will list the top food destinations, the best live music, the most popular places (according to check-ins) and more categories of destinations.
The second feature rollout allows businesses and venues to verify and claim their locations on Gowalla, add contact information, location details and more. Verified locations can also customize the messages that appear when people visit their location with Gowalla. Eventually, businesses will be able to add deals and other contextual information to their verified page.
Lastly, any verified business or venue in New York, San Francisco or Austin can now purchase custom Passport Stamps that users can earn for check-ins, that will also include a featured listing on Gowalla, similar to an advertisement. Featured listings will include a prominent placement on Verified Business Pages and within the Gowalla mobile applications on iPhone, Android and Blackberry.
Gowalla has included this feature for some time, but has been implementing this on a case-by-case basis. Now these custom badges are part of a self-serve platform. While these custom badges previously sold for a few thousand dollars a piece for businesses, Gowalla is will begin charging verified businesses $5 per day for custom badges (the price will go up by $5 as a business publishes more unique badges within a month, says founder and CEO Josh Williams). Eventually this feature will be rolled out to other cities. Via a “Stamp Calendar,” businesses can reserve certain times for their custom badges to be promoted.
It’s clear that with City Pages and Business Listings, Gowalla is turning its platform into more of an information destination for locales, as opposed to simply a check-in focused social network. As Williams tells me, “Check-ins are one form of looking at the location but we are exploring ways to move beyond the check-in.” He says that in the near future, Gowalla’s mobile clients will be updated with “significant” new features.
But business listings and badges could also represent another move by the network beyond just check-ins: revenue. The self-serve platform that allows businesses to identify their page could be complimented by coupons, deals, and even advertising. And the customized badges could also bring in a steady revenue once Gowalla ramps up the feature across the country.