600 million users on Facebook would probably argue no, but that wasn’t the point being made by @thePeterHa, editor of The Daily, during Monday’s “Mobile Meets Social” panel discussion as part of New York (#SMWtay). His point was that while there is a lot of hype around social media-based technologies that incorporate rewards with “check-ins,” is it really ready for primetime?

The temptation is to compare a lot of these new social media platforms to Second Life, and while I’m hard-pressed to put FourSquare and Facebook Places in the same category as Dungeons & Dragons, as I did with Second Life, there are definitely some clear pros and cons to this new approach towards retail engagement. Yes, I love a coupon as much as anyone; and if I’m at my favorite coffee spot, restaurant or clothing store, of course I want a discount. But chances are I am already going there because I like the steamed pork bun and the americano…not because I’m saving 75 cents.

Do I appreciate the brand’s attempt to reward me for going there? Sure. But I still prefer when Shane at Billy Reid personally invites me to a Bourbon tasting event and sends me emails on upcoming sales before the mass mailer goes out. So while the blanket digital discount for anyone checking in is great, when it comes to my favorite spots, I still crave the personal touch; I want the acknowledgement that I have come in multiple times and built a rapport with the staff. I want to know that Shane knows exactly what my size is, the style of clothes I like and how much I normally spend.

Can location-based services evolve into that type of personalized experience? Absolutely. But until that happens, perhaps Peter is right – maybe it is half-baked. Now, if the LBS/rewards evolution begins to head in the direction of allowing me to discover a new restaurant or a unique experience that I wouldn’t have found on my own, then the opportunities are limitless….but does that mean once that restaurant converts me as a result of a discount, I should expect that discount every time I go in? Do I have to check-in to be acknowledged? I didn’t find Billy Reid that way so I don’t expect them to give me 10% off for checking in but I do expect that personal touch they have always provided me because that’s the expectation that’s been set (of course a glass of Bulleit on the rocks doesn’t hurt either).

Ultimately, our expectations are set by our initial interaction with a brand; and our future interactions need to be consistent and match, if not top, that initial introduction. If it doesn’t, the potential backlash is severe and long-lasting.

To hear more from Jackson, you can follow him on Twitter at @jacksonjey

Related Reading:

GQ Style Blog — “And The Winner Is”

NYT Dining – Momofuko Ssam Bar

Cocktail Times – Profile on Bulleit