The Rise of Foursquare

I wrote a guest post for a former LyntonWeb client, Rick Segel, about the rise of Foursquare and what it means for retailers.

You may have heard of this new social phenomenon called Foursquare and asked yourself, “What the heck is Foursquare?”

Foursquare is location based social network/mobile application where users “check in” at venues on their iPhones, BlackBerrys, Android and other smart phones to share with friends via mobile updates, or updates to their Twitter and/or Facebook pages. Users can become the “mayor” of a location by checking in at a venue more than anyone else in a 60 day period (only one check in per day is counted). Users can also unlock badges by completing certain milestones and other tasks.

Now you’re probably asking yourself, “Why should I care?” If you are the owner of a retail store you SHOULD care. When a user checks into your store location a notification goes out to all of that person’s Foursquare contacts, and possibly their Facebook wall and/or Twitter feed, announcing that they are standing in your store. That’s social promotion and advertising that you can’t buy!

There is a local coffee shop a block from our office, and I regularly see co-workers checking in there in the morning. If I’m passing at the same time as a co-worker has checked in, I am more apt to swing in and meet up with them. The idea of getting a delicious cup of coffee may have never crossed my mind until I saw that update come across my phone.

How are businesses using Foursquare?

There are many ways a business can use Foursquare. For example coffee giant Starbucks offers a discount on coffee to the mayor of each specific Starbucks location. This encourages people to stop in every day and check into Foursquare before picking up their coffee, because Starbucks is such a high trafficked store, if you miss one day of coffee you are most likely going to be ousted of mayor and lose your discounted coffee privileges. This creates a sense of urgency for users and they feel the need to visit your store as often as possible to keep this status.

Coffee Groundz, a Houston coffee house that became THE place for the social media industry in Houston grew their popularity by using Twitter and Facebook. They jumped on the Foursquare bandwagon early on, and they now offer the mayor a free local Texas beer or any medium coffee based drink for every time the user checks in. You better believe that is a highly coveted and sought after mayorship.

It’s not just coffee houses that are utilizing Facebook either. Bars like Howl at the Moon wave the cover charge if you check in on Foursquare. The Gap ran a sale in August that gave users 25% for all clothes in their retail stores if a user simply checked in while shopping.

How Else Can You Use Foursquare?

Even if you are not interested or ready to give out discounts and deals on Foursquare, you should at least claim your venue on Foursquare. By claiming your venue on Foursquare you can make sure that your store information like your address, contact information, website and social media links are correct and up to date.

The best part about claiming your business on Foursquare? You’ll be able to check real time stats about your venue which is so valuable to business owners. From there once you are ready you can add promotions and deals to your Foursquare location.

If you’d like to learn a little more about Foursquare, here is a great SlideShare presentation from 360 Digital Influence. The Foursquare Frequently Asked Questions is another great resource as well.

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