Why Geolocation App Users Matter to Marketers

6 percent of U.S. online adults use Foursquare-like location apps

Just a small sliver of adults online in the U.S. are actually using location-based apps like Foursquare, but a new report says that group wields a good amount of influence.

According to a Forrester study released today, the percentage of U.S. online adults who use geolocation apps has grown to 6 percent this year from 4 percent in 2010. Of that small group of geosocial smartphone users, just 2 percent say they use the apps once a week or more.

But the study says that while the adoption of geolocation apps has been slow, the category’s early adopters are influential and young. Not only are they twice as likely as the average U.S. adult online to share product information, but they are also more likely to share promotional coupons, discount codes, or the results of a game they’ve played. They are also more likely to be what Forrester calls mobile “superconnecteds,” “conversationalists,” and “critics.”

Not surprisingly, they also skew younger, with three-quarters of geolocation app users between the ages of 23 and 45. While the category has traditionally attracted men, the report said the percentage of female geosocial app users climbed from 22 percent in 2010 to 37 percent in 2011.

Another promising data point for Foursquare and its location-based brethren: While just 16 percent of online adults in the U.S. were familiar with geolocation apps last year, 30 percent said they were aware of the category in 2011. As tech giants like Facebook, Apple, and Google continue to build out their location-oriented features, that number stands to grow even more.

“The important thing for marketers to note is that there’s a ton of marketing potential within geosocial apps,” wrote Melissa Parrish, the Forrester analyst behind the report, in a blog post. “These services allow marketers to know when their consumers are in or near their retail locations, and to deliver them relevant information that can help with everything from branding to driving in-store foot traffic.”