Foursquare Goes Beyond the Battles for Mayorship as Businesses Reap Benefits

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Friday, April 16 has been declared a social media holiday – Foursquare Day! But let’s back up a minute. What is Foursquare, why use it and what are the benefits for businesses?

Since its inception at SxSW in 2009, brands have been looking at Foursquare and other location-based mobile services like Gowalla for marketing purposes. Companies are still experimenting, but the app Pete Cashmore called in 2009 “next year’s Twitter” has the potential to change the way consumers and businesses interact and the virtual and physical worlds intersect. The Wynn Las Vegas, for example, engages people who check in with tips and info about the hotel. Mashable reported one of the tips on Foursquare strategically inputted by the hotel is that the red chandeliers in Encore were inspired by the twirling of a woman’s skirt and made from Murano glass. The Wynn uses it for a variety of customer service tactics, and guests that check-in on Foursquare even get a complimentary glass of champagne.  Apparently this happened after CES, since I checked in to the hotel and didn’t get my glass! ;)

Another brand using Foursquare is dive bar House of Shields, a San Francisco institution that’s known to many Texties as House of Shards (but that’s another story you can ask our regional director Scott Friedman or anyone in the Text 100 San Francisco office about). When you check into House of Shields or a location in the vicinity on Foursquare, you automatically get a pop-up saying “Hey Hey! If you can find Schlomo in the bar and show that you’ve checked in on Foursquare, he will give you a drink!” Sounds to me like that would be successful of getting people into the bar. The Wynn and House of Shields are two of many examples of brands currently using Foursquare, and as the LBS app continues to take off, we can expect to see more of this.

Outside of the business benefit, there’s the consumer enjoyment aspects of Foursquare. In Text 100 San Francisco, the battle for Foursquare mayorship is on. Its politics, but they’re not democratic, because you don’t get voted in as mayor. And well, it’s virtual and authority is limited. I’m in a tight race with Alissa Carter and just about every day it changes whether she’s the mayor or I am, with Aaron Grabein not trailing far behind, and Jon Katz, Carolina Noguera Binstadt and Star Meza entering as recent contenders. What do you get out of mayorship? Prestige and bragging rights.

Foursquare’s other recognition features include a scoreboard and badges. So, for example, if you check in after 3 a.m. on a school night, you unlock the “school night” badge and you can earn the “gym rat” badge by visiting gym(s) multiple times. When you earn badges, they’re displayed on your profile that can be viewed by others. Points are earned and reflected on the scoreboard for each check-in, and reflected in a chart that compares your points to those of friends…I’m a competitive person and I love this.

You can also see where your friends are (or “friends” you want to avoid) and plug into a community of people that frequent the same locations you do, connecting with them on Twitter or Facebook or even meeting them in real life if you desire.

It’s worth addressing Foursquare’s security and privacy concerns, and a friend, Melissa Rowley, wrote an in-depth post for Lalawag about this topic that I encourage you to read.  My advice is similar to Melissa’s — check out Foursquare, but be smart and use it at your own discretion. If you add or accept random friend requests and have people showing up to bars following you, well, that’s your choice.

What do you think, will you use Foursquare? If you already are, do you like it? Will brands leveraging Foursquare and other LBS apps be successful?