Foursquare Fad: Untapped Potential

The Fad

A conversation about social media is never complete without someone mentioning Digg or Stumbleupon. Everyone’s eyes quickly glaze over with the sheer boredom of talking about the normal social viral tactics and pie-in-the-sky techniques. The normal ideas are tossed around, the normal thoughts about viral marketing and social traffic are chewed on, and then we all go back to our lives. These conversations are commonplace around the our office, and often go just how I described. For a digital marketing agency, we’re pretty close-minded about the concept of social media marketing (mostly because it is incompatible with our clients’ needs) and that’s just the way it is.

This doesn’t stop our own private experimentation, however, and the current craze sweeping our office is indeed a social application called Foursquare.The office already has a number of adherents and our recent social media conversations have all taken a decidedly hopeful outlook for the the future of this social app, so it’s time to share.

The Concept

The concept of Foursquare, for those uninitiated, is simple. You download the Foursquare app to your phone. Then, when  you go anywhere, you ‘check in’ at that location via your phone. The app analyzes your location and offers you a list of choices to check in at, or you can search for your current location yourself. The check-in can be synced to your Facebook wall, so the post automatically tells the world where you are. Checking in earns users points and badges that can be unlocked by a certain number of check-ins or check-ins in certain locations. Extra points can be earned by traveling to different or new locations and checking in more times in a single day.

The key additional feature of this app, however, is the ‘Mayor’ feature. If you check in the most times at a single location, you are declared the ‘mayor’ of that location. A few companies have already started taking advantage of this mayor feature by offering discounts to their mayors in collaboration with Foursquare. In recent weeks, Starbucks has made major headlines by offering a $1 discount on their frappuccinos to the ‘Mayors’ of their respective locations. When you check-in at any given location, if a Starbucks is nearby, a little pop-up informs you of the location of the Starbucks and the nature of the promotion.

We have already seen, through the usage of Twitter and Facebook status updates, that social media users love talking about themselves. They love talking about what they’re doing, what they’re eating, and where they are. They already do it for no incentive whatsoever. Now imagine what they’ll do if they can earn discounts or prizes to go to a single location and check in on a mobile app-something they’re already inclined to do via Twitter and Facebook!

But Wait…There’s More

If that isn’t enough fun, you also have the option of adding a tip or bit of information about a location. It’s like having a mini-Yelp on my phone! Case in point from this weekend in urban Atlanta: I walked to a Baskin-Robbins for an ice cream cone. I checked in on Foursquare. Seconds later, a pop-up informed me that there was a Starbucks around the corner willing to give me a discount on a frappuccino. After I successfully checked into Baskin-Robbins, I was able to scan some tips for that B-R location, tips which lauded the clean bathrooms and recommended Liz the cashier to make inordinately large ice cream cones. I was entertained, enticed and informed, all in one step. What a fantastic concept!

The Call to Action

Foursquare has grown quickly since its inception in March of this year and already boasts over half a million users and allows check-in from any location worldwide. The company is currently being pursued by Yahoo and very large sums of money are being mentioned. This service is about to go places fast.

If you own a small business, a restaurant, bar, nightclub, hardware store, whatever, now is the time to register your business on Foursquare and think about some kind of promotion you could offer. An ongoing prize for the mayor, sure. How about a coupon for every customer that checks in while in your store and shares it to their Facebook? Think of the word-of-mouth buzz this could generate for a new restaurant or bar.

Any ideas or thoughts? Feel free to share them below.

Congratulations @Murlu and @Ocopy winners of the book giveaway.