Mobile social networks: Loyalty, Publishing, and Revenue: Oh My! You may think that because we have ushered in the digital age there will be fundamental shifts in human behavior. You’d be wrong. Services such as Gowalla, Foursquare, Loopt, and even Yelp are finally at the tipping point of success because they tap into latent human desire. And then make acting on those desires simple. Much like the loyalty programs that offered a tenth sandwich after getting nine purchases punched on a card new social networks are offering benefits for loyalty firmly merging the physical and digital world. The aforementioned services are mobile social networks – allowing users to check-in to locations, earn badges for visiting pre-determined locales, and net loyalty rewards (such as free drinks) for particular achievements. The availability of smartphones and the opening up of mapping API’s will help these solutions succeed where other have failed. For greater insight see David MacQueen’s Insight Nokia Strides Forward in Online Location and Navigation. The most amazing part of these networks is the willingness of brick and mortar companies to participate. Becoming a Mayor (by visiting a place the most) on Foursquare and earning a free burger can only be achieved if the establishment opts in. And they are opting in. But free fare is just the beginning. In the last few weeks Foursquare has partnered with the American television network Bravo – allowing Blackberry users to earn special Bravo badges when they visit pre-determined locations, which one can assume will complement Bravo’s programming. Another Foursquare partnership with Canada’s Metro newspaper will provide location aware content from the newspaper’s nightlife section and eventually other sections as well. Finally, Foursquare most recently partnered with Zagat, allowing users to earn special Foodie badges at Zagat rated restaurants as well as offering restaurant tips. So, what does this all mean? Is it just a passing fad? In short, no. It seems like this is the new era in customer loyalty. While the social networking aspect of it remains new the ultimate goal is to drive user behavior. And open user’s wallets. While the players may change the fundamental merging of the physical and digital world is happening. Just this week OpenTable announced it had seated more than 2 million restaurateurs through its mobile applications. GyPSii is also building location based applications that offer location specific advertising such as coupons. While publishing companies will tout solutions such as the iPad as saving their businesses the truth is, services like location aware social networks could be the true path to salvation by driving consumer to spend identifiable real world dollars on real world goods.