Loopt Looks for Engagement in Location Q&A

Location-based app Loopt is looking beyond the check-in and trying to engage users by providing them information about what they should do when arriving at a destination. It’s something Foursquare does with tips and Gowalla attempts with notes. But Loopt is trying a different route by introducing Loopt Qs, a lightweight real-time question and answer feature that allows users to get quick answers to popular questions.
The feature, which will roll out in San Francisco first before going nationwide, gives users a quick glimpse at information about the places they visit, shared in a structured format. For instance, users can look up and find the best drinks to order at a restaurant or if it has Wi-Fi. It’s meant to allow users to cut directly to the information they want, rather than reading through longer reviews on sites like Yelp. They can also share the Qs and their answers on Facebook or Twitter.
Users not only read up on answers, they can also contribute answers, which get added in real-time. Answers are meant to be short or in some cases, responses to quick polls. This is aimed at encouraging engagement and content generation by users, so they can add their insights and opinions easily. Right now, the questions are posed by a local Loopt community team.
Loopt Q is interesting for a couple of reasons. By creating a simple structure with pre-populated questions, it lets users join in easily. Most people don’t generate content from scratch, but if it’s done in a painless way, it can elicit responses you might not otherwise get. As I mentioned, other services offer ways for people to leave tips and suggestions. But sometimes users need to be prompted before they’ll answer.
Loopt Qs also offers people the opportunity to get quick information about a place that could really improve their enjoyment there, whether it’s their first time or they’ve been there a while. If the questions are relevant for each location, this could be an interesting and organized way to get some fast insight into what’s good at that location.
Again, tips are good but their value wanes if there’s too many of them and not arranged in an easy way to get through them. That’s one of the lessons of the growing Q&A trend: it helps to enforce some order, something Stack Overflow has used to good effect. Qs also offer the ability to get some real-time insight about a place, which could be helpful if it’s updated frequently. I would love to see if a restaurant was packed or quiet ahead of time, so I could decide if I want to go there.
But Loopt Qs will still need to overcome some hurdles. It needs to be super easy to contribute. It might be best to elicit one-word answers or offer up more polls with simple A,B or C; Up/Down or Yes/No answers. That can work, as we’ve seen from the success of mobile app Opinionaided, which uses a simple poll structure to get responses back. Ask people to write too much and participation will drop. Answers will also have to be good for people to care so perhaps some curation may be needed from the community team. And at some point, Loopt may have to include user questions to keep people engaged though the challenge will be then to organize those so users can still find the most relevant Qs. Loopt still has a lot to do to ensure Qs is a successful feature but it’s got some promise. And it shows that location apps are moving beyond the check-in to provide more utility to users.