comScore released the results from a study of mobile social networking check-in service users. The study found that 16.7 million U.S. mobile subscribers used location-based check-in services on their phones in March 2011 -- representing 7.1 percent of the entire mobile population.
About 12.7 million check-in users did so on a smartphone -- representing 17.6 percent of the smartphone population. The study also found that they showed a high propensity for mobile media usage, including accessing retail sites and shopping guides, and displayed other characteristics of early adopters -- including a higher interest in tablet devices and accessing tech news, when compared to the average smartphone user.
"Although still in their relative infancy, location-based mobile check-in services are seeing rather impressive adoption among smartphone users," said Mark Donovan, comScore senior vice president of mobile. "The ability to interact with consumers on this micro-local level through special offers, deals and other incentives provides brands with the real-time opportunity to engage consumers through their mobile device."
Check-in service users -- defined as those accessing services such as Facebook Places, Foursquare and Gowalla -- had heavy skews toward 18-24 year olds (26.0 percent) and 25-34 year olds (32.5 percent) in relation to both the total mobile audience and the overall smartphone audience.
They were more likely to be full-time students (23.3 percent) when compared with total mobile (14.6 percent) or overall smartphone users (16.5 percent). Nearly half (46.4 percent) of check-in users were employed full time, slightly less than the percentage of smartphone users who were employed full time (53.3 percent). Both check-in service and smartphone users were more likely to be employed full time than overall mobile users (38.9 percent).
Of the 16.7 million people using check-in services on their mobile devices, 12.7 million (76.3 percent) did so via a smartphone device. Android accounted for the largest share of check-in service users with 36.6 percent checking-in from an Android device, while 33.7 percent of users checked in from an iPhone, with Apple having the highest representation relative to its percentage of the total smartphone market (Index of 132). RIM accounted for 22 percent of check-in service users, while Microsoft, Palm and Symbian each accounted for less than 5 percent.
When compared with an average smartphone owner, social networking check-in users were more likely to access mobile media across a majority of content categories. More than 95 percent of check-in service users used their mobile browser or applications. Nearly 62 percent accessed news. Check-in user behavior was also consistent with that of traditional early adopters, with 40.3 percent of users accessing tech news and 28.2 percent owning a media tablet, both significantly higher than average.
Check-in service users also showed a high propensity for accessing retail-related destinations on their mobile devices. Nearly one-third of users accessed online retail sites on their mobiles, while one-fourth accessed shopping guides.
Check-in service users were also more likely to be exposed to mobile advertising, with nearly 40 percent recalling seeing a web or app ad during the month, compared to just 27.5 percent of smartphone users.