Location-sharing applications on social media were one of those nifty ideas that seemed to never quite take off: after four years Foursquare has around 40 million users worldwide, making it a pipsqueak in the world of social media (for comparison Facebook had over 100 million users four years after it was founded, and Twitter had 190 million). But location sharing on social media may finally be coming into its own, according to new data from Pew Research Center -- just not with the check-in model.
The proportion of adult smartphone users who check in with a social media app has actually decreased from 18% in February 2012 to 12% in May 2013, according to Pew. Overall 46% of U.S. adults owned a smartphone in February 2012, rising to 56% in May 2013; crunching these numbers, that means the proportion of all U.S. adults using check-in services fell from 8.3% to 6.7% over this period.
However, according to Pew the proportion of adult social media users who have at least one social media account that automatically shares their current location when they post (and have deliberately set it to do so) has risen from 14% to 30% over the same period. The U.S. adult social media population has increased from 66% of all adults to 72% over the same period; crunching the numbers again, that means the proportion of all U.S. adults who share their location automatically when they post increased from 9.2% to 21.6% over this period.
As one might expect, younger adults are generally more likely to have set at least one social media account to automatically share their location when they post: 32% of adults ages 18-29 and 34% of adults ages 30-49 are automatically tagging posts with their location, compared to 26% of social media users ages 50-64.
Turning to other location-based apps, 74% of all adult smartphone users say they get directions or other information based on their current location, which works out to around 45% of all adults.Returning to “geosocial” services like Foursquare, one unexpected finding from the Pew survey shows that more female smartphone users are using geosocial apps than male smartphone users (13% versus 11%). That’s interesting because previously men dominated geosocial services, with many women citing personal safety concerns as a reason to avoid using them. The proportion of men and women who share their location by automatically tagging posts was even at 30% for both genders.