Recent moves by the location-based social network Foursquare have made it an interactive destination and hub of activity. Launched as a service allowing users to see their friends’ whereabouts and check-in at locations they visit, with the most frequent visitors earning ‘mayor’ status, Foursquare has gained lots of data about its users. Everything from gender to visitation frequency and time of day has been documented simply by users interacting with Foursquare, and this makes perfect targeting data for its new developments.
First up is Foursquare’s “local updates”, a free service launched within the last few weeks http://bit.ly/OgiPKq. This tool allows businesses to place updates, specials and events directly into the activity streams of a pool of users chosen by Foursquare’s algorithm, which is based on frequency and recency of check-ins and businesses those users have ”liked” (the last made possible by Foursquare’s recent remodel). Basically it targets those who visit and spend money at your store the most, a type of targeting every business wants to have. Users only see updates when in the same city or general area as the business, and the closest location (of a brand with multiple locations) will be the message originator. Keeping users engaged and boosting local business are the main priorities here. Keeping business owners engaged on top of that is a bonus.
Foursquare’s newest, and most exciting initiative, is it’s “promoted updates”, which uses its “Explore” app, a recommendation service for users http://bit.ly/N7Z2cn. When the app is launched promoted updates from nearby businesses in the area appear, but only similar businesses to ones they’ve visited, liked, interacted with or that their friends have interacted with at some point. Good for business and business owners, as they can select the locations they want to promote and schedule updates. However, they must trust Foursquare do the targeting. Promoted ads also feature a way to attach a message, a space for special deals and promotions, and last for several months http://dthin.gs/QslnIg. A big plus. Why else is this a win-win for Foursquare? It builds upon their current model, in that users already turn to Foursquare for nearby places and activities happening, and it gives business owners more options and control while paying on a cost-per-action model.
Although Foursquare is anything but traditional, it also strengthens traditional advertising and boasts tie-in opportunities http://bit.ly/NFeIZA. For instance, “The Great Baltimore Check-in”, a contest-based geo-social game launched by Foursquare in partnership with Urbanite magazine and WTMD radio. Drawing 1,500 participants last year, the game involves Foursquare users who’ve registered online to play racing to meet the challenge to check-in at 89 different commercial and public landmark locations. A three-month long contest, July – September, the one with the most check-ins at the end wins a 2012 Vespa scooter while 2nd place wins a new Fender guitar. Yet again, something that works out in everyone’s best interests and then some. Participants utilize Foursquare and populate local businesses as part of the game, increasing business. Businesses gain exposure and a boost to business, as well as plugs in print, radio and online (which themselves gain from the marriage of traditional and non-traditional media). Why is this contest not something every city is doing? This should be a nationwide event.
All of these new ventures show that Foursquare is raising the bar on what it means to be interactive. They’re more interactive with users via the “local updates” service, they’re more interactive with businesses via “promoted updates” and they bolster traditional media through their ability to join forces for package promotions. Foursquare is proving its status as an innovator, and serving up a challenge at the same time. In making the leap and expanding their basic services like this, they show themselves to be versatile and ahead of the game. For others looking to contend? I wish you luck.