Foursquare is mobile, location-aware social platform that is rapidly gaining popularity on devices such as the iPhone and Android-based phones. It is currently being used predominantly as a social networking tool where people can "check in" to locations and see if their friends are at nearby locations, but there are many other innovations that are being developed for the Foursquare platform.
How Does It Work?
Foursquare is both a Web site and application that can be downloaded for mobile devices. Users download the software and then utilize its geo-locating abilities when they go to a location (i.e. restaurant, bar, gym, etc.). At such a location, a person can click "check-in" and choose the place at which they are located. This location is logged into the system and then can be easily published to Twitter, Facebook, and friends using the Foursquare application. There is a point system that awards points for checking into locations and gives more points for checking in multiple times in a day and at new places. Participants can additionally earn badges for satisfying other miscellaneous criteria such as checking in after 3 A.M. on a school night or checking in at special events like the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW). Finally the title of "mayor" is awarded to the person who checks in most frequently to a specific destination.
How Can a Business Use Foursquare?
The most immediate way businesses are using Foursquare is by rewarding the mayor with special privileges. Mayors have sometimes been granted the ability to drink for free during happy hour at a bar or receive a free coffee at a coffee shop. If a promotion like this is advertised, it encourages people to frequently visit the establishment and check in on Foursquare. This promotion generates a social buzz over time, but if a lot of people check in on a certain day, the location may also begin to "trend," which highlights it on other local Foursquare accounts as a trendy place for the day. "Trending" can attract other nearby users looking for a socially active place to visit.
Advertising will likely be the key to Foursquare's sustainability, and as a business it is hard to beat advertising specifically to local people who have a set of defined interests. If you own a pizza place and a Foursquare user frequently checks in to pizza places in your neighborhood, it might be very effective to lure in this new patron with a coupon on Foursquare. Or if you see a large number of people checking into a campus library late at night, running a coffee delivery ad on their accounts is an easy way to target new customers.
Foursquare is a game, a social network, and eventually a targeted advertising campaign. Getting creative by understanding what users enjoy doing with their accounts and what services you can provide to these users (both in and out of the game) is the best way to determine how Foursquare will be an effective tool for marketing your business.