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Foursquare - Why Brands & Marketers Should Be Getting On Board

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Talk about mobile and chances are that someone will mention Foursquare. Having spent three years quietly building up its app, it now has over 20 million users signed up to it. It's obvious that it's popular, but there are more reasons behind its success than just letting users check-in to places. Through use of gamification, providing tips and highlighting deals and providing engagement that other sites can only dream of, it means that brands are thinking up of new strategies to help engage with what is a relativity modest, but highly engaged audience.

While primarily a mobile app, Foursquare has also expanded its services to the web, creating a specialised portal that takes advantage of the capabilities offered by desktop. While being set up for mobile obviously helps Foursquare - especially since many other sites are making the transition - the desktop presence gives it the opportunity to really build upon its success.


1) Why Should You Use It?

2) Foursquare For Businesses - How it Works

3) Types of Advertising

4) Foursquare Campaigns

5) Tips and Tricks

6) Other Resources

7) Infographic Sources

Why Should You Use It?

[caption id="attachment_63971" align="alignleft" width="383"] Icons courtesy of  The Noun Project


With 20 million users yet only close to a million merchants using the service worldwide, there is great scope for businesses to take advantage of the platform. The obvious reason why it's popular is so that people know where you are and where you've been. However, Foursquare has become more about discovering new places and providing tips and recommendations.

While check-ins mightn't seem like a big deal, it's when you consider the data that you can gather from this that things get interesting. From numerous check-ins, you can find out about a person's interests, what they like to do with their free time, and find out which users are loyal customers because the more they visit, the more likely they will have good things to say. It's no wonder that Facebook introduced its own check-in and location mapping service before allowing Foursquare to be an open graph app.

Its capabilities as a social media marketing tool is really just being explored. The platform is ever changing with Foursquare making little adjustments here and there to improve the experience for both users and businesses. Some changes are for generating revenue (Promoted Updates) while others have come from user suggestions (the return of the nearby friends feature). User experience is still king, but the next few months will be crucial as the mobile app tries to become a fully fledged business.

Foursquare For Businesses - How it Works

[caption id="attachment_63988" align="aligncenter" width="765"]

Icons courtesy of  The Noun Project[/caption]

While users are the heart of the service, brands have been slowly getting in on the action. There's a dedicated user base to be taken advantage of and provided you can provide incentive for them to check-in regularly, there is a lot to take away from it. Here are the basic ways to reach your audience.

Merchants Page

This is the traditional business page and is essential if you want to even use the service to promote deals and discounts. All you need to do is claim your venue by filling out this form and before you know it, users can check-in when they arrive on your premises. This doesn't have to be limited to just restaurants and bars, any building or place can be checked-in so if you offer goods or services and you have a physical location, there's no reason why you shouldn't have a merchant page.

The first thing you need to do is to claim your venue. If it doesn't already exist, you can create it here and add in additional details such as Twitter profile, type of venue and map location. Once you've created and claimed your venue, Foursquare will verify that you're the manager or responsible for the place through phone or email, depending on where you're based. After this, you will be able to connect with customers and run special offers. Of course, you will have to get the word out that you can be found through word of mouth, social media promotion and real world advertising (highlighting that you can be found on Foursquare in-store, etc.)

Alongside being able to offer deals and let customers know what to expect, you will be able to alert your best customers to new deals and updates when they're near the vicinity. There are also analytical tools available to use so you can keep track of how many people check-in and see how popular new deals or offers are.

Brand Page

Mainly for those businesses that don't have a physical presence. When you boot up the app first of all, you will be suggested a number of brand pages to like so you can follow their updates. Like Merchant pages, Brand pages can also create location-specific events for users to check-in and communicate to them through updates.

Brand pages will get web versions as well as in-app pages, the former being a cross between Twitter and Facebook's own brand pages. If your brand has a physical location (Starbucks, H&M, etc.), you can combine the brand page with your merchant page.

Types of Advertising

Foursquare has recently pushed new methods of advertising so that businesses can get the word out about the latest deals. Here are the main ones to keep in mind.

Local updates

Only available to those users who have 'liked' your venue or have checked-in a number of times, local updates will be automatically shared with them when they're in the same city. These updates will appear as soon as somebody checks into a business, or looks at the app's 'Friends' tab. This rewards loyal customers and allows businesses to take care of those who are regularly bringing them business.

This feature is available to all companies and services that have claimed their business on the site.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="765"]

Icons courtesy of  The Noun Project [/caption]

Promoted Updates

Promoted Updates work differently to Local Updates. While Local Updates gives users a better way of keeping up with new updates from businesses and places they already like, Promoted Updates allows users to discover new places. These updates can be found in the 'explore' tab.

The major difference is that, as the name suggests, businesses are required to pay for the privilege of using Promoted Updates. These work the same way as Local Updates, businesses can promote new services, deals or specials through it and it will appear to anyone who is near the vicinity. These ads are tailored towards your likes and interests (i.e. the places and venues that you regularly check into) so if you regularly check into restaurants, your updates will reflect that.

Businesses and companies pay Foursquare on a "cost per action" model, instead of views or impressions their updates receive. At the moment, the feature is only available to a number of companies and businesses, but expect it to be rolled out for general use pretty soon.

Custom Badges

You may remember the mention of gamification (the word that nobody really understands), and this comes in the form of badges and mayorship. The more varied places you check into, the greater the chance you have of obtaining a badge. IF you check into a specific place a number of times, there's the chance you will become mayor of that spot, which if a business is savvy enough, will use that position as a way to offer special deals or discounts.

[caption id="attachment_63973" align="aligncenter" width="765"]

Icons courtesy of  The Noun Project[/caption]

While mayorship is rather self-explanatory, custom badges are really for one-off events, mostly for credit so that users can say they attended an event or did something exclusive. Anyone can apply for once (form found here) although you have to specify why you want to create a new badge and state what people have to do to obtain it. If Foursquare like the idea, you will get a response within two weeks and six to eight weeks to get ready before your campaign launches.

Foursquare Campaigns

Fulham FC

At the tail end of last season, English Premier League football club Fulham made Foursquare one of its official social media channels and urged its fans to use Foursqaure on game days. Their main aim was to get 250 check-ins at their home ground, Craven Cottage; doing so would earn the ground a Super Swarm Badge.

As an added incentive, Fulham and Foursquare offered every fan to check-in at the ground special offers on tickets and merchandise once the club had reached that magical 250 mark on one game day. The club has been reasonably successful in harnessing Foursqaure and, at present, 3,095 people have checked in at the Cottage; with the new season approaching, they'll be hoping to see that number quickly rising.

Miami Ad School's Metropoli

The creative folks at the Miami Ad School has built a reputation for their innovative concept campaigns, and their Foursquare-infused Metropoli game is no exception. Metropoli combines Foursquare's check-ins features with popular board game Monopoly.

To buy a property, Foursquare users must first check-in there, and friends who check in later must pay rent to the owner, of course, but in virtual Metro dollars instead of actually currency or Monopoly money. Metropoli adds a competitive and fun, additional social element to Foursquare. Once again, providing an incentive for people to use it and check-in at their favourite places.

Metropoli (Formerly Foursquaropoly) from Deanna McDonald on Vimeo.


There's nothing you cannot do with a little hard graft and subterfuge, as Belgian ad agency Euro RSCG recently proved. As part of a massive recruitment drive, RSCG checked-in at the offices of 43 of their rivals every day, until they had done enough to become the mayor of each location, amazingly enough. From there, they released tips on the 43 pages and linked each location to their recruitment page as a way of encouraging opposition talent to come to their agency.

Foursquare is still very, very niche in Belgium, so it is doubtful they were very successful, but this was certainly an extremely aggressive (almost shameless) campaign that is sure to get attention and give people ideas in using social media for corporate espionage and manipulation.


Dutch airline KLM went out of their way to surprise their customers early last year, using Foursquare other social media sites to decide which surprise gifts to buy KLM fliers arriving at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.

Fliers, who checked at particular KLM-endorsed locations, would then have their social media output scoured over by the airline as they searched their personal preferences for the perfect gift. Verging on stalker-ish? Probably, but such personalised gifts certainly marked "how happiness spreads" as KLM intended and garnered them plenty of positive publicity.

7-Eleven and Super 8

Foursquare, American convenience store 7-Eleven and the studio behind last year's sci-fi blockbuster Super 8 teamed up to award prizes to Foursquare users checking it at 7-Eleven stores across the US. 21,000 prizes were available, and the campaign very smartly ensured that more people went to the store, used Foursquare and heard about the JJ Abrams-directed flick.

It worked out so that every 88th check-in got tickets to see the film, every 88,888th person won a weightlessness experience with Zero gravity corp, and the 888,888th person won the final prize of actually going on a private mission to space estimated at a more than $100,000 value. Quite astounding prizes, really, and more than enough to get you to use Foursquare.


Coca-Cola is all about health, and partnered with Foursquare last month to encourage more people to get active and start going to local, state or national parks in the US as part of a budding competition. With every visit, the park received 100 points and the totals were tallied up to decide a winner.

The winning park received a $100,000 donation from Coke; the parks, in turn, put on additional activities and exercises for Foursquare users. It's quite a nice way of getting people out the house over the summer, while also encouraging them to get active, enjoy Coke products and to see their local parks.

Starbucks and (RED)

AIDS prevention and awareness charity (RED) and coffee titans Starbucks got Foursquare users to check-in at Starbucks joints across the US and Canada recently, and with every check-in, Starbucks donated $1 to The Global Fund, up to £250,000. The campaign is a simple way of leveraging social media activity for charitable benefit and doesn't ask very much fo Starbucks customers/Foursquare users at all but to keep doing what they were doing. Savvy and kind-hearted.

And here's Baratunde Thurston, formerly of The Onion, on the potential of Foursquare for satire.

Tips and Tricks

- If you're looking for a location that you checked into a while back, but can't remember the name, you can search through your archives and find it. On the web, you can access your check-in history (, and search for it using terms like place, person and categories.

- If you accidentally checked into the same place more than once, you can delete the duplicates. Simply go into your check-in history, and select the check-in you want to get rid of. There will be an 'x' located to the right of the location's name. This is useful as you can normally only make 30 check-ins in the one day. You shouldn't need to check-in that many times, but it's handy to know.

- Because you won't be looking at your phone 24/7,  a handy feature to use is radar, which will make your phone vibrate whenever you're near somewhere or something interesting. Simply go into settings on your profile page and you will find radar there.

- Also in settings, you can manage local updates under account settings. If your feed it clogged with updates and you want to filter out updates, simply go here and untick them. Brands that you like and places that you check-in regularly will feature in this list.

- Your privacy settings are important if you like to keep certain details to yourself, or if some of your friends here are people you don't know that well. Here, you can choose to hide your mobile number (if you provided it), email and control how much of your actions can be viewed by the public.

- Relating to the last point, you can also adjust notifications in settings and decide whether you want to be alerted to check-in notifications (nearby check-in make by your friends).

- You can add apps onto the service, but not directly on the app version itself. There are two ways to go about this: The first is to go into the app itself and connect it up to your Foursquare account. The second is to go into settings and select 'Add and Manage Connected Apps.' Here, you will be given a number of suggestions ranging from Instagram, Path,  Soundtracking, Sonar and Lanyrd (provides info when you check-in at a conference or professional event).

Other Resources

- Anick Jesdanun of the Huffington Post is bemused by Foursquare and says "I'm still not sure why I need it, yet I can't seem to stay away."

- Reviewing the iOS and Android editions, SlashGear say that Foursquare is "utterly intoxicating".

- Leanna Lofte of iMore says: "I'm a huge fan of the Foursquare and that's saying a lot since I hated the old Foursquare for iPhone app."

- MacLife are big fans of Foursquare's "sleek redesign" and say it is a "big step towards making the service more of an essential resource than an obligation."

- Laptop magazine declares Foursquare "the most fun of the various social networks that turn exploring new locales into a game."

- Foursquare is "a fun and serendipitous complement" to other popular apps, according to USA Today.

"The new interface definitely seems more efficient," says Jason Parker of C|NET.

- Reviewing Foursquare for Blackberry, Elise Hines says Foursquare is a "Simple, easy-to-use application" and a "Great way to communicate with friends and other customers."

- Cult of Mac calls Foursquare "an excellent (and free) way to find new places to go."

Infographic Sources

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