Foursquare… Friend or Foe?

By Dana Randall

While my blog posts are often written from the “expert” point of view, I have been doing research on the Foursquare and now Facebook Places phenomenon and wanted to share the questions I have been asking myself for a change. I’m hoping to open up a dialogue between technology gurus, brands and consumers to gather anecdotal feedback to help bring some clarity and gather insight to the topic.

With that said, this particular post will also be filled with opinions as well as facts. I usually avoid sharing opinions in this format, but for this topic I feel strongly that the topic or Foursquare and Facebook Places is really driven by opinions.

My research on this topic increased recently for two reasons, my interest is presenting the most strategic marketing plans for clients & my interest in ways to promote our agency Built by the Factory. I am going to start with the later area of interest, because I feel it is the one with more room for interpretation.

Do you use applications like Foursquare for service businesses that are not brand & product driven?

Well the question alone brings up another immediate question. Isn’t my company a brand? Yes, of course. But not in the traditional sense of CPG or Franchises. And then the next question. Isn’t interactive & digital development such as website design and building a product? Perhaps, but while a website does result in an end product, it really is more of a service. So it is clear that using something like Foursquare would not be with the intention of directly driving sales or offering discount coupons. Does it have any proven effectiveness for increasing a companies overall visibility?

The next issue on table is really a matter of personal opinion & preference. When I approached Jeremy Davis (Partner/ Creative Director of Built by the Factory) and asked him to take a more active role in contributing to Foursquare, he had a very clear response. “I do not care to broadcast to the world, where I am and what I’m doing”. A very valid concern for maintaining a level of personal privacy. But his comment was followed by “But, if you feel strongly that it will be good for business, I will do whatever I need to.” Sorry Jeremy I didn’t mean to broadcast our “private” conversation to the entire “interwebs”, but I really felt it brought up a valid question. And I can’t begin to tell you how many times clients & other business owners have approached me with the same question. So my research for both public opinion and indisputable data continues. What service business has effectively benefited from an active presence on Foursquare & what strategies were implemented to achieve this success? Until I can clearly answer this question and support my request with facts, Jeremy is off the hook from having to “check-in”. I However will continue to over share my whereabouts to the world, in an effort to gain first hand experience to support any research I find.

Dana has just checked in at “her living room couch” while authoring a blog on the topic.

What brands have launched Foursquare campaigns with measurable success? And what is considered to be a measure of success for Geolocation-based social network campaigns?

I came across an article from May of 2010 which mentioned some campaigns that were being run at the time on Foursquare:

Bravo: Cable television network Bravo turned to Foursquare to help drive its viewers to more than 500 locations associated with the network’s shows. The incentive: badges right now; sweepstakes and awards in the future.

The Wall Street Journal: New York is competitor turf for the Wall Street Journal. So when the Journal launched a new metro section for New York, it decided that Foursquare was a good way to promote it. In addition to offering Journal-created badges for checking in to certain locations in the Big Apple, the Journal is using Foursquare to distribute some of its NYC-related content.

Zagat: Before you ‘check in‘ to a restaurant, restaurant guide publisher Zagat wants Foursquare users to be able to access its reviews, and provide their own suggestions to Foursquare followers as well. Of course, there’s also an obligatory ‘Foodie‘ badge involved that is earned when a Foursquare user checks into Zagat-rated restaurants.

MTV: MTV wants MTV and VH1 viewers to be able to track the moves of their favorite reality TV stars. Through MTV’s relationship with Foursquare, personalities from shows such as Jersey Shore, The Hills, The City and Real World: New Orleans will receive ‘celebrity mode‘ Foursquare accounts that are publicly accessible to fans.

Starbucks: Starbucks is one big brand that has embraced social media and so it’s no surprise that it brewed up a presence on Foursquare. Caffeine addicts can become Foursquare ‘Baristas‘ by checking in at five different Starbucks locations. Starbucks is also considering ways to reward customers who check-in.

Tasti D-Lite: One company that is already rewarding customers for checking in on Foursquare is yogurt chain Tasti D-Lite. It allows members of its TreatCards loyalty card program to earn extra points by connecting their TreatCards to their Foursquare accounts and letting the world know when they make a purchase.

Pepsi: Late last year, beverage giant Pepsi sponsored Foursquare’s New York City leaderboard. For one week, Pepsi donated $0.04 to CampInteractive, a non-profit organization that helps inner-city youth build technology skills.

Planet Hollywood: What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, except when it’s memorialized for all eternity by Foursquare. By checking in at the Miracle Mile Shops at the Planet Hollywood hotel, Foursquare users might not only get a Vegas-style reward, they might also find their name in lights, literally.

Lucky Magazine: In an effort to get lucky during Fashion Week in New York this year, Conde Nast’s Lucky Magazine teamed up with Foursquare to engage event-goers with information on the best local places for certain activities. The relationship is expected to expand past Fashion Week, with Foursquare being able to earn access to exclusive Lucky content related to fashion vendors in its ‘Shopping Directory‘.

Financial Times: In an effort to reach tomorrow’s titans of industry and captains of finance, the Financial Times is giving Foursquare users who check in at targeted locations the ability to temporarily bypass FT.com’s pay wall.

Consider this as Part 1 to an ongoing discussion topic. I invite you to share your experience with Geolocation-based social network campaigns.