Just in time for last month's SXSW conference in Austin, Google rolled out check-in deals at 60 venues throughout Texas's capital city. All users had to do was check-in to a location using Google Latitude, Google's location-based check-in app, and they were rewarded with discounts and deals.
Today, Google announced that it would be bringing those deals to thousands of venues throughout the country.
The whole thing is pretty straightforward, but has an air of Johnny-come-lately to it. All you need to do is to check-in to a location using Google Latitude and you can get a discount or a deal. The more you check in, the more "status" you gain and the deals get sweeter. Rather than only allowing for one "mayor", as on Foursquare, this allows businesses to reward customers for loyalty, which is pretty cool for customers. Finally, the one employee with a smartphone and a Foursquare addiction isn't the only one to get that sweet, sweet deal. Instead, there are three levels of "status" for which businesses can offer different deals.
As with any social effort by Google, however, we have one question to ask - why? When the company unveiled its +1 initiative last week, we had the same questions. Facebook made a push with its own deals initiative today, but we have none of the same questions for them, because checking in has an inherently social aspect to it with Facebook. Users can show off to their friends or make their whereabouts known to increase the chance of a serendipitous encounter. With Google, it still feels like a vote cast into a black hole. "Here I am!" you shout, but nobody, except that business, is listening.
It's funny because, before deals and coupons and everything of the sort became all the rage, we argued that using location-based services just to share with friends seemed a bit pointless. But now that we're offered the exact opposite - a check-in app that offers little to nothing in the way of social interaction, but plenty in the way of incentive - we see the opposite argument. Why would I want to check-in, just do see if I could get a discount? Especially when there are other apps out there that offer both?
Google Latitude (with all its gooey deal goodness) is available for both Android and iPhone. Maybe an unsocial way to check-in and get deals is exactly what you wanted. Or maybe you actually have enough friends using Google to consider it social but I, for one, have all of my friends on Facebook and Twitter.