FourSquare – Marketing Potential or Waste of Time?

Foursquare is the new darling of the social media scene with the inventor of this platform being lauded as the new king of social media. Judith Lewis, digital expert and head of search at earned media consultancy Beyond, explains more.

The problem with most social media is that it is difficult and time-consuming to market over. Here is where Foursquare earns its crown as king of social media marketing. Foursquare is a location-based social platform which I think must be the best tool to aid stalking since Facebook.

The phone-based application is downloaded onto a handset and it then determines the location of the phone/user through the phone’s GPS. The app then displays local locations and enables an action which the user can take called “checking in”. This “check in” can then be amplified through Twitter and Facebook, giving stalkers and criminals alike valuable information about a users current location. Foursquare does take privacy seriously and it is easy to lock down an account but given the number of public tweets I see giving people’s locations away from home, few do.

Foursquare has created a bridge between the “real world” and online social media interaction. They then added a gaming element to make the offering more of a game as well as a bookmarking tool. The action of checking in to a place attributes points to a user account and after the acquisition of a certain number of points, a user unlocks a badge or becomes the “mayor” of a particular location. This game element where badges can be unlocked, combined with the sharing element and convenient ’bookmarking’ of real life has made Foursquare the success it continues to be today. I’m in it for the free coffee and special treatment by places I’m a regular at.

Domino’s Pizza, Hummos Bros, Starbucks, Pho, The Breakfast Club, Evans Cycles, Kaffiene and other London and global businesses have leapt on to the Foursquare bandwagon. They have realised that the future of interaction in “real life” is becoming firmly based within the digital world. For these and other businesses, Foursquare has become a valuable way of interacting with, and rewarding, regulars. While one of the most difficult things to measure is how much online marketing drives purchasers to offline shops, Foursquare is one tool a marketer can use to help measure, as well as engage with, this customer.

To start marketing on Foursquare, you need to follow a few simple steps. The first thing to do is add or claim your business in order to prove ownership. Once done, Tweeting, messaging Facebook followers, and alerting other digital users about Foursquare participation is important. Prominently displaying participation within the venue itself will help improve reach online through this and other channels. While not complex, Foursquare does offer statistics and information to business owners to help them monitor activity. All this is very easy to do and since Foursquare is easy to contact, any problems are quickly dealt with.

To best leverage Foursquare, advertising specials through the business profile is most compelling. Offering the mayor of your business a free coffee on Tuesdays, a free pizza on Wednesdays or a 10% discount for someone’s 10th check-in are all ways of promoting your business and creating loyalty. The beauty of Foursquare in a city like London is also that if a customer is at a nearby competing venue, your special will pop up. In this way a smaller business can steal customers from a larger one nearby.

Foursquare brings offline and online together on a smartphone and as the penetration of smartphones increases, potential interaction increases. With services like Qype in the UK and Yelp in the US adding this checking in functionality to their presences along with the existing Twitter and Facebook integration, this social media platform is set to be the new dominant force.

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