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foursquareSince 2007, Foursquare has been taking the social media marketplace by storm, gaining popularity as a location-based mobile platform for communicating with friends while traveling about town. During the process of checking in, people have learned that the points and badges they earn on the application can amount to unexpected savings from brands like Starbucks, Coach, the Wall Street Journal, and Zagat, to name a few. It doesn’t take a master’s degree in finance to know this can amount to savings for the customer and product loyalty to the company. Whether a company is launching a new division, or simply interested in building brand recognition for a tried and true product, Foursquare offers companies the opportunity to inexpensively promote business interests.

Known for their alternative style of advertising, Starbucks jumped on the Foursquare bandwagon offering the first “Mayor” special. Mayors earn this designation in the Foursquare community as loyal people who “check in” the most frequently. Starbucks rewards Mayors with $1 frappuccino coupons. For Mayors who frequent Starbucks, discounted coffee is a nice treat that they would end up paying for otherwise.

One interesting approach for using the power of Foursquare is the way The History Channel connects with the public when they “check in” from a particular city. Every time a person “checks in” from a different locale, an interesting tidbit or historical fact pops up related to that specific destination, courtesy of the History Channel. Based on the metrics provided by Foursquare, the History Channel has over 202,450 followers now due to this interaction.

Another organization that uses Foursquare as a way to provide a free service to the public by sharing relevant information is Loyola University. They use their Foursquare page as a visitor’s guide, with a map of the campus at their fingertips because of this social media resource. On a campus full of so many buildings, it is nice to have all of the buildings identified by name with a description about each.

While some companies use Foursquare as an inexpensive public relations tool, other organizations directly tie increased sales and new customers to using the social media tool. One very innovative Foursquare success story is the story of how a German pet company, Granata Pet, increased pet stores ordering the pet food by 38% with an increase in sales of 14%. Instead of selling to dog owners, Granata Pet decided to market directly to the dog. Whenever a user “checked in” via one of Granata’s ten physical billboards in Munich and Berlin, dog food samples emptied out into a dog bowl on the spot. In true Pavlovian form, the dogs were sold immediately, reported as trying to guide owners back to the billboard on future walks.

Foursquare is not simply a forum for companies, but is also used by celebrities. Paula Dean posts relevant news about where her cookbooks are being sold. (reference 8)She also uses her page as a way to tell her followers where different charity events are being held and other special events she plans to attend. This type of communication is key for encouraging loyalty and building a community.

Originally popular in the restaurant and retail industries, a less obvious player for using Foursquare is the TV network, Bravo. Badges and prizes entice TV viewers to visit Bravo locations.  This example is unique as it encourages viewer relationships with TV shows and characters. With so many cable channels to select from at any given time, promoting loyalty with an audience is key for long-term success.

Another way to utilize Foursquare is to promote events. The University of Charlotte used a t-shirt giveaway to promote basketball game attendance. By encouraging an event check-in, event attendees have the opportunity to connect face-to-face with users they follow. Foursquare is unique for facilitating online and offline connections bringing both worlds together.

Another way that Foursquare benefits companies is by offering insights into customer profiles of the people who visit. This valuable information tool is offered as a complimentary benefit for participating companies. Ordinarily, corporations pay hundreds, or even thousands of dollars for similar market research software. Like any good market research tool, Foursquare offers statistical and demographic information vital for adjusting marketing strategies as needed.

Social media is here to stay, limited only by the creativity and vision of its leaders. The Internet has created a culture who expects free giveaways and information in exchange for their attention. Foursquare satisfies this cultures’ thirst for freebies, discounts and information delivered immediately via mobile phones.

Emily Matthews is currently applying to masters degree programs across the U.S., and loves to read about new research into health care, gender issues, and literature. She lives and writes in Seattle, Washington

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