Will The SXSW Flash Mob Return Thanks To Location-Based Services?

This Friday marks the beginning of SXSW and with the lead up to the event there is significant buzz surrounding the two leading location based services: Gowalla and Foursquare. While many are questioning the value in sharing their location, most SXSW attendees used Twitter as a way to let people know where they were at past events. Instantly hundreds or thousands of people would descend on parties as they learned from popular users where the hot spot was. Will Gowalla and Foursquare reignite the flashmob revival at this year’s SXSW?

We Need Face To Face Interaction

While Twitter is great to let people know what your listening to and occasionally where you’re located, location based services are great because everything focuses around where you are at. Yes, I love filtering through the latest content, but when I’m at an event or out to socialize there’s only thing I’m really concerned about: where people are at. That way I can meet people face to face. While social media enthusiasts love to be part of the conversation, humans, especially extroverts, have a strong desire for face-to-to face interaction.

Far Less Noise

While you can post numerous updates on Twitter as part of a “conversation”, location based services are far less noisy. That’s because updates are limited to when people change location. I could be following hundreds of people and only receive a few updates over a 24 hour period, making it much more manageable to keep up to date.

The Grass Is Always Greener

At large events it’s very easy to become overwhelmed with everything going on simultaneously. SXSW is one place where becoming overwhelmed is normal. Often times you’ll see attendees spending more time browsing their phone while at an event than actually interacting with other people who are around them. It’s not because they don’t want to network but because there could be something better going on right down the road.

After a few times at SXSW you tend to give up on always trying to find the “most happening” spot. In 2008, Gary Vaynerchuk drove people to a hotel lobby party rather than dealing with the lines at parties and Twitter was a key tool that was responsible for flash mobs like Gary’s.

The Tiered Privacy Effect

Gary Vaynerchuk is a unique case however. Not all people want to let people know where they’re at, which is why Gowalla, one of the leading location based services, errs on the side of privacy. Rather than publicly broadcasting your location, Gowalla leaves the user to make their whereabouts public via Facebook and Twitter. This means an event promoted on Gowalla is completely through word of mouth.

Once the event is on Twitter however, everybody knows about the event, not just “friends”. While each location-based service tends to have a different position on privacy, it’s clear that an event promoted on Twitter will result in a massive number of attendees in a short period of time. While location-based services have not been thoroughly tested at an event like SXSW (the “Foursquare phenomenon” only began to spread at last year’s events), this year appears to be shaping up to be a big one for Foursquare and Gowalla.

For now we’ll have to wait and see if the two services take off at this year’s event. After using Gowalla for a few days I finally “got it” and realized the value of location-based services. I have a feeling that other attendees will finally begin to indulge in the LBS phenomenon at this year’s SXSW. Do you use any location-based services like Foursquare and Gowalla? Do you think these services will take of at this year’s SXSW? Are you willing to share your location with others?