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Checking in on Foursquare Marketing

May 11, 2011

foursquare, marketing, business

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear Foursquare?  For most people, it seems the idea of ‘checking in’ and informing your social media followers of your location sounds creepy. 

According to a recent study from digital agency Beyond, 50% of consumers cite ‘privacy’ as their main reason for not using this location-based app.

The same study points to another troubling issue for Foursquare: Only 17% of mobile users are interested in location-based apps such as Foursquare and Facebook Places. 

Nevertheless, Foursquare has grown substantially in the past year - from 1 million to 8 million users.

A writer for Mashable believes there is serious value to marketing on Foursquare. She points out that Radio Shack is reporting Foursquare users spend 3.5 times more at its retail shops than the average customer.

More recently, Starwood hotels just announced yesterday a partnership with Foursquare that will reward members of their Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) for check-ins at their participating hotels.  Those rewards include loyalty points as well as the opportunity to win a resort getaway.

 Eric Friedman, Foursquare’s director of business development, explains the marketing advantage to this service.

“Foursquare works well when a moment of commerce happens, and commerce is exactly what business owners are looking for.  Plus as smartphones penetrate the US market, there will be even more Foursquare users.”

For businesses with brick and mortar locations, Foursquare enables you to reach and motivate the consumer as soon as they step foot around your location.  Through the use of specials, deals and promotions, business owners can directly influence a consumer’s behavior and drive purchase intent with their application.

Another interesting aspect of Foursquare - it can work for businesses of all sizes.  According to Friedman, ‘Small businesses have the same resources available to them as a super large QSR, an Italian restaurant or a Starbucks, and that’s a really powerful tool.” 

Foursquare can be valuable to media companies as well. For last year’s Olympics in Vancouver, the New York Times launched a ‘Times on Foursquare’ page - once users checked – it informed them of recommendations for restaurants, attractions and nightlife - as reported by Times’ travel and entertainment writers.

For media companies, there is the value of driving people to your site or organization, which translates to more advertising dollars.

However, according to Business News Daily, Foursquare’s biggest issue right now is its ‘pervasive lack of awareness.'

A survey conducted by digital agency White Horse found that fewer than 60% of respondents knew about location-based apps and only 39% used them.

Foursquare certainly shows a lot of promise – as long as it can address its awareness and adoption challenges. Business owners certainly should take note because aside from Groupon, there are few services that offer such valuable ‘point of commerce’ technology.