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Do You Know Where Your Friends Are?

March 22, 2010

I do.  I even know where people I’ve never even met are.  Just right now, one of them is grabbing a cup of coffee on Bay St.  Another is enjoying a bowl of soup a few blocks over and some guy I sat next to in a politics class apparently went on to become the mayor of Burger King (I’d DM him with my congratulations if he would only start following me…).  How do I know these things?  Some crazy little app that can be increasingly seen encroaching on my feed told me so.  Foursquare, who are you and what are you doing here?

Four-What?

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past year (disclaimer: I only heard about it 2 months ago) you’ve likely read about how location-based social media sites are changing the way businesses and marketers are connecting with their publics.  Foursquare allows you to “check-in” to places you go and updates your Facebook or Twitter status appropriately.  Users can earn points for frequenting venues and are notified of their friends’ movements.  At only a year old, Foursquare already has over half a million users and set a single day record of 275,000 updates.  Many in the social media world feel that location-based apps are still just in their infancy stage.  Mashable’s Pete Cashmore even felt strongly enough to dub Foursquare as “next year’s Twitter”.

Foursquare’s Impact

Aside from providing yet another forum for “friends” to jockey amongst themselves over who has the most interesting life, apps like Foursquare have the ability to fundamentally change the way in which businesses and customers interact.

Attracting New Customers And Rewarding Loyalty

Customer loyalty cards are old news.  Some sort of sub-card or coffee-card can be found floating around in almost everyone’s purse or wallet.  Foursquare, and other apps like it, provide the opportunity to rethink this antiquated concept and, at the same time, provide an extra benefit to businesses.  Companies can now provide their clients with cards which they swipe every time they make a purchase.  With these new loyalty cards, customers can gain reward points towards future purchases, similarly to when a traditional card is stamped. That is where the similarity ends. With Foursquare’s API, an automatic Twitter update can be made each time a card is swiped providing the business with an increased online presence.

Businesses And Customers, Getting To Know Each Other Better.

Foursquare provides a platform for businesses to speak directly to their existing customer base as well as offering the ability to reach potential new customers based on location.  At the same time, it allows business owners to better understand the habits of its customers.  Foursquare also has great implications when measuring social media ROI by providing an accurate account of online impressions and how well those translate into sales.

Marketers Can Better Direct Their Messages

Not only can marketers send messages to potential customers based on proximity (imagine walking through a mall and automatically being sent information on sales as you pass by stores) but they can make suggestions based on related products.  Just left Golf Town?  How about some reviews of golf courses.  Late night check-in at a bar?  Maybe you’d be interested in a cab.

Where Were You Last Night?

Unlike its competitor Gowala, Foursquare doesn’t require geo-tagging as proof of a check-in.  Keep this in mind the next time your significant other comes home smelling like someone else’s perfume but hands you an iPhone, assuring you that they were honestly just visiting their grandmother at her retirement home.

Just Who’s Watching You?

We all know that insurance companies have been investigating claims with the use of social media, but who else might have an interest in where you are?Last summer, news agencies and blogs reported the story of Israel Hyman, who claimed that his house was robbed due to a Tweet announcing that he and his family were away on vacation.  Though his claims cannot be proven, sites like Please Rob Me have capitalized on these privacy concerns.  Please Rob Me is (was) a website that aggregates publicly-shared location updates by announcing that a user has “left home” and lists where they currently are.

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