Foursquare is the hottest “next big thing” in social networking and social media. I believe Foursquare has tons of potential for marketing, and we’re just beginning to see that potential.
To summarize, Foursquare users “check in” when they visit locations around town. Points are awarded for various activities — checking in, making multiple stops in a day, adding a new venue, making a repeat visit, or checking in on consecutive days. The points have no value (yet), badges (mostly frivolous) are awarded for achieving certain goals (also mostly frivolous), and “Mayorships” are awarded to the most frequent visitor at any location.
It’s a game, an experiment, and mostly silly fun at this point. But that will change. Here are some ways Foursquare could emerge as a meaningful marketing channel:
Imagine checking in at Starbucks and receiving an offer for a free coffee with purchase of a scone, or a coupon for 10% off at the neighboring bookstore. As a marketer, Foursquare could let you hyper-target your message to consumers at the precise moment they’re in your proximity.
If you check in five times a week at McHooligan’s Neighborhood Pub, you provide valuable behavioral data to marketers. Expect a message (Promotion? Thank you note?) from Mr. McHooligan, and maybe an ad from Alcoholics Anonymous.
This isn’t just mobile media — it’s social media, too. Foursquare could offer advertisers the option of letting you share a promotion with your friends. Think of it as a reward you can pass along, making your friends love you even more.
It’s nice to imagine all customers are equal. They’re not. Not to marketers, anyway. The customer who checks in from my place of business (and presumably spends money) most will be rewarded with better offers. Being Mayor has its perks.
Remember when the FTC imposed disclosure regulations on bloggers? Wait ’til they get their hands on Foursquare. Companies already want to give prominent bloggers and Twitterers perks in hopes of generating cheap, powerful publicity. It’ll happen on Foursquare, too. Let’s be honest: Somebody will check in daily from some location in exchange for gifts or cash, and those with the largest Foursquare networks will be the first targets for marketers.
Foursquare also lets you create “To-Do” lists, so it’s conceivable that a business could create a series of tasks for players to complete. Their could be rewards (coupons, upgrades, etc.) based on completion of certain tasks.
These are just a few ideas. There are plenty of ways businesses can benefit from mobile social networks. Check out Jason Keath’s post Foursquare Goes to College to see how UNC Charlotte is using Foursquare.
Where do you see this sort of geo-based social network heading? How would you use Foursquare with your business?