What is Foursquare and Why Should Marketers Care About it?


Lately, there has been a lot of buzz in SEO and social media circles about Foursquare. For those of you who may not be aware of Foursquare, the company says it has quote, “Everything you ever wanted to know about your favorite, er, mobile + social + friend finder + social city guide + nightlife game thing.”    Got that?

In other words, it’s a geolocal networking application that allows users to connect with their friends, update location, and earn reward points using mobile devices.

Foursquare and Gowalla, a competing geolocal application based in Austin, TX, were the hot topics at last week’s South by South West Music & Media Conference. These up and coming services are very popular with people in their 20s who want to know where their friends are hanging out.

I did a test search to see what results came up for Orlando. The service delivered a list of places in Orlando, FL including Sea World, various hotels and the airport;’ a list of people named Orlando; and finally “tips and to-dos” from people about Orlando, FL. Here is a snapshot of the results I got:

Foursquare search results

So, why should marketers care about Foursquare and other geolocal services?  A recent New York Times article by David Carr pointed out that much larger companies are just now adding location awareness onto their existing applications. Twitter, with 50 million messages a day, introduced a location-awareness function during the SXSW conference, while Facebook, with more than 400 million users worldwide, will soon flip the switch for the 100 million or so users who update on smartphones.

Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley told Carr, “It doesn’t just have to be about where to get a good cup of coffee. It could be about a certain type of movie and then perhaps you’d get an offer of another movie in that category. Right now, we are focused on place because we have a small team, but eventually, we could support check-ins to anything. It’s really about experiences people have had.”

Carr says, “Logic suggests that the advertising possibilities enabled by knowing where someone is or what they have been watching at a given moment are profound. If the first movers gain users and the big boys come off the sidelines, what looks like a fetish object could end up being one more important tool in navigating physical and digital space. “

I wonder if Foursquare needs to broaden its base beyond twenty-somethings to compete with the likes of Facebook and Google (which just added a widget to its Latitude application that lets you see the location of nearby friends who have enabled the service).  It will be interesting to see what develops.

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