“Location-based social networking could be the next big thing.” – Helen A.S. Popkin MSNBC.com
My first thought when I heard of Foursquare was “Oh no, ANOTHER social media site to keep track of.’
I also thought “Man, don’t people already update Twitter and Facebook with useless blabber about what they’re doing and where they’re going?” I know that I do (insert guilty smile) and there can be some value in doing that.
I initially thought Foursquare was overkill even before I knew what it was. I’m always skeptical when going into something new or reviewing a product or service so I approached Foursquare with caution and kept a safe distance initially.
I like to keep my life simple so only the best services are going to make it through the crowd and become one of my core services, gadgets and products. So imagine my surprise when I found great value and potential in the concept of foursquare. Stick with me and I’ll explain what I like about Foursquare – and more importantly – how it can benefit your business.
What is foursquare?
First, let me give you a quick rundown of what Foursquare is and the concepts surrounding the phenomenon. During SXSW (South by Southwest Music, Film and Interactive Festival) in 2009, Foursquare made a big splash. In 2010 at the same festival it was touted as the social network to beat in what has been unimaginatively dubbed “The Location War.”
The location war is essentially the battle over who will rule the geo-service, geo-location, geo-tagging and location-based social networking universe. The word Geo is sourced from two Greek words (neither that you’ll care to pronounce) that essentially means Earth. So Geo-location is essentially the term that describes where you are on the earth. By using your IP address, GPS (Global Positioning System) and other technologies built into our smartphones that far beyond our need to comprehend and understand, your position on the face of the planet and in the space-time continuum can be known and announced to the world.
Foursquare is essentially the big boy on the block at the moment in this space. If you simplify it down, Foursquare allows you to share your location with friends. It’s really that simple. So how does it differ from status updates on services like Twitter and Facebook? Well, let me explain.
How an individual uses Foursquare
What’s different about Foursqauare is that it’s essentially a game. As the Foursquare website states “Foursquare aims to encourage people to explore their neighborhoods and then reward people for doing so.” This is a simple, yet amazing concept and the major differentiator between why I would care to update my status on other social media sites vs. Foursquare.
By utilizing Foursquare on my phone (I use the Foursquare app on my iPhone) I can view what’s around me at any time. Locations, businesses, people I know, (My Foursquare Friends) etc. and it all happens in real time as I walk, ride or drive. When you arrive at a location you simply “check-in” and record that you’ve been there. By doing so, your position and time are announced to your friends (not just anyone) and logged in Foursquare for all to see.
What’s in it for you?
What I personally like about the Foursquare concept is that I discover new places – which is their stated goal. Even in my small town of North Canton Ohio I’ve discovered places that I would have driven by otherwise unnoticed. I can only imagine what I could discover in a large metropolitan area like New York. Add to that the fact that when arrive they can freely make comments and recommendations about each location when they check-in.
For example, I was at a favorite restaurant the other night and I “checked in”. I took a look at the tips and comments and noticed that Wednesday was $5 burger night and someone made a comment about how good they were. I thought “Hey, today is Wednesday! Perfect.” My menu selection was decided before I even made it through the parking lot.
As stated earlier, Foursquare is also a game. As you continue to check-in at locations around town and your favorite hangouts you will compete against others that do the same for the title of “Mayor” of that location. This is simply the person who has checked in the most and you must physically be there to do so. Why would I want to do this? There are plenty of reasons ranging from fun competition to rewards and discounts from the establishment.
Over time you also acquire many badges and prizes from Foursquare directly that are earned for various fun and creative “undisclosed” activities that are fun and always growing. Some examples are awards for traveling a long distance or stopping at a certain number of locations during the same day.
The game concept is whats currently separating Foursquare from the pack. People are narcissistic and competitive for the most part and it just appeals to our natural need to connect. But for businesses it’s so much more. For businesses it’s another powerful way for them to reach the masses. And not only reach them, but connect with them personally.
How a business uses Foursquare
In January 2010, Foursquare had almost 275,000 users in less than a year. In March of that same year the count rose to over 500,000 users. That number has grown in leaps and bounds ever since. There are over a million venues currently in the system and more are added every day. Just the other day I added our local little league complex where we go several times a week for practice. (Yea, I’m the Mayor) There are also thousands of businesses currently offering special deals and rewards that range from coupons to freebies and beyond. The question you need to ask as a business owner is “What can I do to reward my most valuable customers”? With foursquare you can now do that and so much more.
Beyond rewarding valuable customers through the (currently) free Foursquare business program, they offer free analytics that provide participating businesses with all the juicy information that they love about their customers. And not only that but they have the ability to communicate with their loyal followers.
To just take a few examples, businesses can see how many visitors checked in at which location, who are the most frequent visitors, the time of day, the uniques, the gender breakdown, who told other people about their check-in on Twitter and much more.
So the question of why this is good for your business is obvious on many levels. You have the ability to connect with and reward individual customers – most importantly the valuable, loyal customers – in ways that can be creative and highly attractive. The rewards will be a small price to retain their loyalty and increase that bond of loyalty that they already feel for you and the products and services that you provide. Thus ensuring their continued use of your offerings. I’m sure I don’t have to even mention that value of the information that you can get from the Analytics as well.
Ideas for Foursquare rewards
1. Mayor Rewards are given to your Mayors as long as they remain the reigning leader. Give them a discount off their bill, give them a free dessert, provide a coupon code, heck, give them a one-time behind the scenes tour. Whatever it might take to make them happy and feel special because they are essentially your most valuable customer.
2. Offer frequency-based specials which are rewards given every X check-ins that they have at the location. Say goodbye to those annoying reward cards in your wallet or on your keychain!
3. Special Verifiable Offers. For example, show your server that you’ve been at our location more than 15 times and receive 25% off your dessert item. Or give them a free drink! Give them several top shelf drinks for crying out loud! Rewards like this are a small price to pay for the continued loyalty of your best patrons and it will be returned to you in ways that you probably can’t even measure.
There’s more to come from the always growing and expanding geo-location space and businesses should pay attention. The one thing that we know for sure is that it’s good for business – and honestly, I think it will be beneficial for everyone as we learn new and exciting places to experience. It’s fun too. Heck, you might even get rewarded for doing something that you already love doing. What can get better than that?