What is better than the satisfaction that comes with completing a run? Of course that needs to be sharing that experience with friends! So what if your schedules don’t match or you’re not even in the same city? Given the rapid advances of smartphone technology, a bunch of clever programmers have been working away diligently on a solution to this very problem. Proudly topping the popularity charts in an appstore near you is RunKeeper. I should actually backtrack a little and start by saying that what the app originally set out to do is keep track of your outdoor fitness activities, whether they were walking, running, biking or canoeing, by using your phone’s GPS module and letting you know, on the fly and afterwards, how far and how fast you went. All activities could be stored and compared later on to inform you of any progress you might be making, delivering the science of fitness management into the palm of your hand (for a comprehensive review of the basic functions, see Vogel, 2013).
However, there are many apps out there that do exactly the same thing, although they might not be quite as well designed. The change started when RunKeeper integrated Facebook and later G+ into their system, first allowing you to share your activities and later also allowing these accounts to be linked. From here on, RunKeeper has tremendously expanded on this social aspect of its application. By now RunKeeper has become a social media platform in its own right where users can befriend other runners, follow each other’s activities and share photos and notes about their most memorable moments. Truly, the community of runners and other sports enthusiasts that make up the RunKeeper family are very loyal, very passionate about their sports and very appreciative of how the app allows them to make the most of their efforts. As a result, without spending a single dollar on advertising, RunKeeper is presently a very strong brand, especially among the outdoor fitness enthusiasts of this world (Altstudios, 2014; Comstock, 2014).
What is more, they’re taking their user involvement to the next level having recently introduced workouts and routes. This way, users can obtain paid and free training schedules to attain new goals, explore inspiring routes to break a monotonous routine and create their own content to test it and give it back to the community. There are plenty of inspirational blogs on the RunKeeper website that are brimming with anecdotes about the combined power of tracking your fitness and the support from the community. As a convert runner since two years, I can only subscribe to these observations.
Undoubtedly, turning the users into co-creators of even more and diverse workout inspirations will serve to add value to an already strong value proposition from a users point of view. So finally, as the basic app is free of charge, what is in it for the company? Besides the proceeds from premium subscriptions and an online shop for fitness gear, more (relevant) user generated content leads to more users and more frequent usage which in turn leads to more data. In the age of big data, that is like striking gold.
Altstudios (2013) Runkeeper Case study. Website accessed on April 15, 2014; http://www.altstudios.com/case-study/runkeeper
Comstock, J. (2014) RunKeeper CEO: Dedicated trackers are headed the way of the digital camera. MobiHealthNews. Retrieved on April 15, 2014, from http://mobihealthnews.com/31227/runkeeper-ceo-dedicated-trackers-are-headed-the-way-of-the-digital-camera/
Vogel, S., (2013). Runkeeper App Review. FitTechnica. Retrieved on April 15, from http://fittechnica.co.uk/fittechnica/2013/08/runkeeper-review/