Ideas

Why you should care about Foursquare

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As you may already know, Foursquare is today announcing a new partnership with American Express. As you almost certainly know, Foursquare is a small company based in California that pioneered technology that aims to "make the world more fun to explore", allowing users to "check-in" via a free mobile app that identifies their whereabouts via GPS then recommends local restaurants and (more importantly) discounts and specials within a small radius.

Users who check in to a venue the most become "The Mayor", and are also able to win game badges and unlock special deals by checking into specific locations.

I can already hear you saying "so what, they are tiny and nobody uses that thing so why would I care?".

Good question.

Firstly, new stats released this week say they have just tipped past 10 million global users, and while we have no idea how many of those are active, 10 million users is nothing to sneeze at.

Next, a personal anecdote from a digital strategist slash social media super nerd.
I've been on Foursquare for over 18 months now, and between Mayorships and badges, I've nearly deleted the app at least 5 times due to loss of interest. I honestly couldn't say why I have held onto it, but something told me it might just be worth it.

Recently, I've started checking in everywhere I go - just to see if the venue is aware of the tips people have left about them or even gone as far as creating a special deal for return coffee drinkers. You may be surprised to learn that certain suburbs of Melbourne are FLOODED with discounts and specials (especially of the coffee and shoes variety), but probably unsurprised to learn they are often inner-city, and close to digital agencies.

That said, I have been genuinely impressed by the speed this technology is being adapted by small businesses keen to get an edge on their local competition. At such a low cost of entry, digital and social marketing is often the easiest way for a shop owner to bring new people through the door after investing in some basic signage!

You still haven't answered my question, Murray.

That's true. All I've done is try to map out the landscape a little. So for those of you still wondering why you should care about tiny digital startups like FourSquare, let me answer your question with a question.

Why would a company as prestigious and powerful as American Express get involved in a partnership with Foursquare?
Is it for money?
Is it to be seen as the cooler, younger credit card company?
Or is it to reach a whole new set of consumers?

Yes. It's all of the above, and many more things nobody can predict yet.

Amex are having a go with Foursquare because just like the businesses they are trying to reach, the cost of entry into this new technology IS SO LOW compared to the traditional media they are used to it makes more sense to get in and screw it up than to sit back and wait. Because for all the marketing managers who are frightened to death of letting go of their brand, there is one or two who have the foresight to understand it's no longer yours to hang onto anyway. The best way forward is by saying "I don't know, but I'm excited to learn" and holding hands with some people (like Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook etc) who are so passionate about this new environment they would happily do it for free without you anyway.

The point is getting involved early, when it's cheap to screw up and walk away with all the valuable lessons.
Case study documents are great, but they're like reading a blog post from someone who just returned from a year living in the Amazon forest.

Even the best imagination couldn't perceive the ups and downs involved with something so vastly different.

If you are scared of letting go, it's understandable.
If you do nothing with that fear, and just let this remarkable opportunity pass you by - I'm sorry to have wasted your time.

Foursquare might suck, and go nowhere.
Then again, it might be Facebook.

Oh, and to those brave enough to dip their toes in the water no matter how cold it may be right now... Thank you! It's an absolute pleasure to see your faces light up every day upon realising the possibilities of a brand new world that can't be ruled by gravity or scale.
Keep up the good work, and keep dipping!