When I used to think about Foursquare, my mind would go to rubber balls or squares drawn on pavement. Now the first place my mind goes to when I hear that term is social media.
So What Is It?
Foursquare is a location-based social network that connects you with your friends and syncs with your other social media like Twitter and Facebook. However, unlike Twitter or Facebook, Foursquare is about sharing the places you visit (restaurants, clubs, venues, retail stores, etc.) and recommending them to other people..
The application allows you to share your physical location with friends. So, when you walk into a bar or restaurant or store, you "check-in" (Foursquare's term) on your cellphone or mobile device, and your friends cansee where you are on a Foursquare map.
Foursquare engages a local audience by encouraging them to explore their neighbourhoods and cities and rewards them for doing so.
By combining friends and city guide elements with game-like technology, Foursquares' members earn points leading to "Mayorships" and can uncover all kinds of bonuses for not only trying new places, but going back to old favorites.
Playing the Game
As a Foursquare user, you can earn points every time you check-in at a location, unless you check in to the same location repeatedly. Foursquare encourages its users to step outside the box, awarding more points for visiting new places, trying new things, or going to multiple venuesin one night. After the network has been built a user can earn points for giving recommendations and crossing off their "to-do" list ( a virtual "note to self" about what you should do or where you should go next).
The goal of the game however is not just to try new locations or revisit old ones, you need to claim these locations, and by doing so earn points towards a "Mayorship". Becoming a mayor gives someone bragging rights for being the person who comes to a specific location the most and as businesses know, customers love being rewarded for visiting places they genuinely like.
(Congrats to @Yarbo on Twitter who became the new Mayor of Webnames.ca yesterday!)
For your mayorship, you're not just competing against your friends; you're competing with everyone in your location that week (because on Sunday at midnight, the scores are all reset to zero- Monday is always a new game). Are you beginning to see how this can be good for business?
Foursquare for Business
Take me as an example. I recently moved to Vancouver, a big-ish city in which most people stick to their neighborhoods - Kitsilano, Main Street, Gastown, Yaletown, North Van, West Van - you get the picture. I already have a circle of friends in Vancouver who are on Foursquare. As a user, I can add tips for other locals to know where go in a 'hood and what not to bother with. Before I even check out a new place (which Foursquare encourages me to do ... remember new places equal more points), I already will have an idea of what to expect from what other people are saying about it. A business can develop some serious word of mouth advertising through Foursquare these days.
As Foursquare continues to develop, so does the way businesses are using it to interact with customers and potential customers. Similar to Yelp, businesses can encourage their patrons to post reviews and also offer rewards to their customers. A café or shop can let its community know they are "in the game" by registering on Foursquare and adding their mailing information to the list for free Foursquare window decals. From there a business can promote itself by rewarding customers with discounts for checking in or even freebies like Starbucks, Sports Authority, Ben and Jerry's and Whole Foods have done.
To cite a local example, Granville Entertainment Group recently did a promotion that saw them raffle off Canucks tickets to FourSquare mayors who visited the company's Doolin's Irish Pub on a specific evening.
For businesses, the simple act of recognizing customers as "regulars"
can better their relationship with them and encourage repeat
customers. Since joining Foursquare, some Starbucks have seen a 50% increase in check-ins at locations and AJ Bombers (a Milwaukee burger joint) has seen a 30% increase in menu item purchases (Foursquare Blog, 2010). How is this possible? Well, Foursquare isn't exactly fringe anymore. This past spring it surpassed 1 million registered in April 2010, and since then has it has only picked up momentum!
So why not get in the game? Not only is Foursquare a good way to connect with new customers and reward returning ones, like Twitter it has become an important tool for monitoring your brand and keepting tabs on the competetion. Sign up and play a part in growing a community around your business.
Learn the lingo at Foursquare? An Introductory Guide by PublicRelationsblogger.com
Join in by visiting Foursquare's Business Page
Visit the Foursquare Church for news and articles