Just a few years ago, Foursquare was one of the darlings of the social media world after it made its debut at South By Southwest 2009. Foursquare’s innovative “check-in” technology made it possible for small businesses to connect and offer specials deals and discounts to customers based on location. Foursquare’s use of virtual goods (like badges and prestigious “Mayor” status) made a “game” out of everyday life.
Even though Foursquare was the first app of its kind, Foursquare now is facing big competition from other location-based apps like Facebook Friends Nearby and Yelp. The model that Foursquare invented, of helping people find relevant local businesses while keeping track of their social media friends’ locations and activities, is more popular and relevant than ever. Foursquare has made some recent changes to the way its app works that illustrate some larger trends in how local marketing is evolving.
Even though Foursquare is no longer the only game in town for local search and location-based social media, there are still many benefits for small businesses who use Foursquare marketing.
Here are a few insights about the recent evolution of Foursquare and what it means for small businesses:
Foursquare and Swarm: Earlier in 2014, Foursquare announced that it was splitting itself into two apps. They said that the new version, Swarm, would be dedicated to check-ins and social activity (seeing where your friends are checking in and what they’re doing), and the old “Foursquare” name would be reserved for discovering places.
Making Local Search More Predictive: The new Foursquare app is meant to be a highly focused local search app that gives people recommendations for restaurants, bars, places, and businesses that they would like based on their previous Foursquare check-ins and what their friends like. In this way, Foursquare is trying to anticipate what people want even before they “know” that they want it. That means instead of searching on Google for “best pizza restaurants,” Foursquare can recommend pizza places in your area based on your prior activity and your friends’ preferences. The Foursquare marketing lesson for small businesses is that the new Foursquare works a lot like Yelp – it’s based on customer reviews and local search, not just on check-ins.
Foursquare Has Massive Amounts of Data: Foursquare’s goal as a company was not to just create a fun check-in app, but to collect massive amounts of data about consumer activity and consumer preferences. They appear to have succeeded! According to an article in AdWeek, “Does Foursquare Offer Enough to Woo Advertisers Long Term?” Foursquare receives 6 million check-ins per day, has 45 million users worldwide, has received 5 billion location signals from 60 million places, and has been utilized by 50 million brands and publishers.
Increase Foot Traffic: One feature of the new Foursquare and Swarm apps is that they do not require people to actively “check in” by pressing a button at locations. Instead, these apps track users’ activities by using a “passive check-in” feature. For example, whenever a Foursquare/Swarm user is in your store or business location, the app will know. This means that instead of encouraging people to “check-in” at your business on Foursquare, now you just need to get people in the door in the first place. This actually makes it easier for small businesses to utilize Foursquare marketing, because you can get credit for having more people visiting your store, without having to encourage them to actively press a button on their phones to check in.
Use Foursquare Ads: Foursquare ads are unique because they are so highly targeted. Instead of trying to reach people from a certain demographic or a certain city, Foursquare goes even further by putting your ads directly in front of people who are most likely to buy from you. Foursquare ads reach people in your area who are actively searching for what you sell (“best pizza places”) or who have visited other businesses similar to yours, but haven’t visited your business yet. This type of Foursquare marketing can be a highly cost-effective way to get more customers to come to your business.
Local search and discovery apps are a highly competitive battleground in the social media and mobile app world, and time will tell as to whether Foursquare remains dominant in this space. But small businesses still have some big opportunities to reach customers with Foursquare marketing.
Do you use Foursquare marketing or buy Foursquare ads? How do the results compare to Facebook or other social media marketing efforts for your small business? Leave a comment and let us know, or tweet us at @KabbageInc.
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