I’m willing to admit that it took me awhile to really take a look at foursquare mainly because it was limited to big cities and since I spend most of my time in Frederick I didn’t see much worth in it. When it opened up and didn’t force you into the closest location, I decided to give it a try. I know it annoys a lot of people seeing the Tweets about where you are and if you just became Mayor of that establishment, but after using it for awhile I do see a lot of value for small businesses.
Here is the scoop if you are not familiar with foursquare. As a user of foursquare, you check-in at your current location via your smartphone loaded with the foursquare application. Based on GPS, foursquare will try to pinpoint your current location. Once you check in, you earn points, get suggestions of things to do at that establishment, and find other friends and locations nearby. Did you catch the part about suggestions of things to do? File that away for a minute. You collect points and based on the number of times you have checked in, with those points you earn badges and become Mayor of locations. In the process, you can choose to tell your Twitter and/or Facebook friends where you just checked in.
Sounds like just another annoying waste of time, right? Not so fast. I think there is a definite opportunity for businesses, mainly retail and restaurants, with foursquare and future location-based and mobile social networks. As I mentioned above, there is the ability to create to do items for a location. What this means is as my friends on foursquare visit a place they can put a note of something to try, eat or do while at that location. They can also recommend something nearby your current location. The thinking being, if my friend tried it and recommends it, I will give it a try. This is providing word-of-mouth on the spot and in real time.
I don’t personally announce my location on Twitter with every check-in for privacy reasons, but I like to check in to see if anyone has a recommendation for me to check out. It gives me the option to try something different or explore a new location. I also find it interesting that when my friends or I do tweet a location, it often begins a conversation on Twitter. It promotes companies without them know it or being involved. I’ve learned about places I haven’t visited before, but are now on my to do list. Pretty powerful stuff.
One last feature that should be of interest to small business. Businesses are beginning to offer a special offer through foursquare, whether it be something free with purchase or a discount, to users of foursquare that frequent the business. Offers can be used to reward a foursquare user on a certain number of visits or for being Mayor of that business. By showing your phone to the server or at the register, you can prove your status and receive the offer.
Rewarding loyalty is something that businesses have known for a long time and this is just one more way to reward those that offer repeat business. Also because it is a game too, don’t be surprised when a little friendly competition breaks out to be the Mayor of your establishment. Don’t believe me, read this article or this one for how foursquare is being used by other companies.
So what do you think? Is foursquare just a game or something in which business should pay attention?