Connecting the Dots: Foursquare and Location Based Social Media


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On Monday, a few of us from AMP attended a great Ad Club event with Dennis Crowley (@dens), co-founder of the location based social networking website Foursquare at the NERD Center in Cambridge. I’ve known about Foursquare for a while, but it was a great opportunity to hear directly from one of the creators not only how it started, but where it’s going. With growth rates rivaling Twitter, the 1 million user mark close at hand and a potential $100 million buyout from Yahoo, Foursquare is about to get even more attention in the coming months. Here are some really interesting things we picked up at the event.

What’s the deal with Foursquare?

If you don’t know, Foursquare is a service that allows you to ‘check-in’? at just about everywhere you go ‘ work, shops, bars, and even public transportation. Every time you check in, you get points, and have the opportunity to unlock badges ‘ everything from Newbie for first timers to Mayor for the person that checks in the most. Foursquare was initially built to share your location with people you know and want to meet up with. Crowley mentioned he had always been intrigued by dots on maps, and one day asked ‘why can’t the dots be people?’? While Facebook and Twitter are places for thousands of friends, Foursquare lets you stay connected to those closest to you.

Since its launch, Foursquare has grown into a larger platform that now allows you to simultaneously gather reviews/recommendations from a larger peer community. Like most social media services, what was originally built as a means of keeping up with friends, is now turning into a service many brands are now trying to leverage to reach their most loyal consumers.

Isn’t everyone doing location based features now?

While Twitter, Facebook and others have location as a feature, the biggest point of differentiation with Foursquare is the competitive nature of it. Crowley mentioned that with Foursquare it’s all about ‘the screen you see after check-in’?. Twitter and Facebook allow you to say where you are, but won’t show you who else is there. The gaming aspect of Foursquare ‘ the badges, the points ‘ is what keeps people active on the service.

Where is this technology going?

Right now, you collect badges and points for every interaction you have. At the moment, they’re strictly for bragging rights. In the future there might be some additional functionality where you can use badges and points to cash in for rewards. Additionally, there’s the whole idea of web 3.0 that involves anticipation and building technology to tell me and others not only where I am, but where I’m going or should go.

How can brands get into the mix?

At the very least, every check-in is a mini ad for that location. It’s basically telling your friends, I care enough about this place to let you know I’m there. That’s word of mouth advertising in its simplest form.

Crowley did stress that Foursquare is not planning on ‘making badges to make badges’? for brands. In order for brands to successfully integrate with Foursquare, there needs to be some sort of actual application for users ‘ just check out what MTV and Bravo are doing to connect regular folks with their reality ‘stars’?. They want advertisers/brands to add value to the platform not just use it to advertise.

In the near future, there will be additional research and data gathering opportunities as well. Eventually, participating brands will be able to access a dashboard that shows them who, when, and how often people are checking in. This could lead to some great consumer insights with cross-cut data. If we know that consumers who check-in at your business are also over indexing somewhere else, there will be opportunities to understand where else to reach consumers and how to cross-promote.

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