Amid the buzz of New York’s Internet week, a new social twist on loyalty rewards programs was announced – the launch of Topguest, a new service that will allow people to use their favorite location-aware social networks for something more than tricksy points, badges, mayorships and the odd mobile voucher; reward points and air miles from loyalty rewards programs of which they are members.

We think this fusion of loyalty rewards programs with location-aware social networking is smart – and an idea that is worth considering for brands with loyalty or CRM programs.  By ‘checking in’ to hotels, bars, stores and other destinations on location-aware social networks such Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite, Whrrl, TriOut, Loopt, Yelp and now Twitter, Google and Facebook, customers could earn reward points, bringing them to stores selling your wares, whether online or traditional.

For TopGuest, who are looking to become middleware between location-based services (LBS) and travel/loyalty rewards programs, their service is in preview mode, with a partnership with luxury hotel chain, Standard Hotels (reviews on TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb and Cnet).  What’s appealing about the TopGuest service is it’s simplicity, there are no apps to download, you can just ‘check-in’ with your social networking site and start getting rewards.  Whilst there is a natural fit between an emergent category of location-aware loyalty rewards programs and travel, we think non-travel brands could develop similar services.

Imagine, for example, if Sony ran a contest during the World Cup in which people checking in to bars screening matches on Bravia TVs won reward points for the SonyStore (if they posted images of the match to TwitPic). Or if every time you checked in and picked up a car at Avis, points were added to your Avis First rewards program. Or, whilst following the travel tips of luxury brands on Foursquare such as Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs and Coach, you won loyalty points for following the tips and visiting stores.