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Is Foursquare a Waste of Time? – Plus Infographic

Social media networks sometimes seem a bit schizophrenic.

They are both a place to play and socialize and increasingly they are also where you can market your business.Is Foursquare a Waste of Time - Plus Infographic

Facebook was never meant to be a social network to create a brand page and collect tens millions of fans that is now common place with the global brands such as Coca Cola.

Twitter started off as a private messaging technology that was not designed to be a social network.

Some social networks such as LinkedIn were purpose built from day one to provide a networking portal for business people.

Games have a significant presence on social networks and are a significant revenue driver. It is reported that social games on Facebook such as Farmville and Mafia Wars generate up to 30% of Facebook’s revenue.

The Rise of Location Based Social Apps

The development and rapid growth of the GPS enabled smartphone technology has enabled location based social apps such as Foursquare to become a force in social networking.

Foursquare is a location based social networking app and website for mobile devices. Users can check-in with their mobile phones. Each check-in awards the user points

The current numbers for location based apps are significant and at the end of 2011 Foursquare revealed  the following

  • 15 million registered users
  • 1 billion checkins
  • Announced US nationwide partnerships with American Express
  • 600,000 merchants
  • 170 million API calls per day

These numbers do indicate that it is obtaining some critical mass (mainly in the USA). This is vital for Foursquare as it requires significant numbers and scale to be meaningful  for major brands.

The Competitors

The competitors in this space include Loopt with 5 million users (which is more a journaling app rather than a game), MyTown with 4.5 million users (which utilizes the Google Maps API) and initially Facebook places.

Facebook “Places” that was initially offered as a separate feature in 2010, has since been integrated into Facebook as an “Add to Map” button. This is in line with Facebook’s strategy of making location a core part of its product, not a separate check-in feature as it initially debuted.

This will assist Facebook in providing more finite accurate data over time for its database that it will use in geo-targeting down to a postcode level for its Facebook self serve advertising feature.

Facebook paid marketing will then become useful for local businesses who need to target their local area and suburb not just an entire city.

Is it a Waste of Time?

Turning a game into a meaningful commerce platform that benefits retailers and B2C store fronts is what will make it a success in the future. It will also need a large participating community that connects consumers and retailers

Foursquare has been trialed by McDonald’s which saw it drive a significant increase in check-ins (33%) on the day it offered 100 gift cards to Foursquare users who checked into one of McDonald’s 14,000 stores. It must be noted that this was not necessarily foot traffic.

Smaller retailers have run some pilots with mixed success. Some case studies as mentioned on the Clickz.con blog are a sample of maybe what works and doesn’t.

These included

1. Two Golden Corral Restaurants which had tepid results that didn’t encourage them to take an initial trial any further.

2. A Foursquare campaign by the AJ Bombers Burger joint increased sales by 110% on a normally quiet Sunday.

3. Green Cape wine shop offered a 10% discount on high end wines to those who checked-in

According to research from Applied Predictive Technologies (a software company that provides data and analytics to some of the biggest retailers and restaurants in the world, including Starbucks, Staples and Subway), so far have had a minimal impact on businesses. The senior VP, Jonathon Marek puts the revenue bump from a successful campaign on Foursquare and other location based services at the 2% mark.

Maybe the American Express partnership will prove to be a hit over time as they partner with Foursquare to increase use of its credit cards.

Is Foursquare a waste of time

Source: Foursquare

What About You

Would you rather use other social networks and marketing to promote your company or organisation.

Do you think it would be a better use of resources, time and money to use Facebook and Google Adwords to assist your business with geo-targeted marketing.

Have you found Foursquare useful for your business or heard of any successful case studies?

Looking forward to hearing your stories.

More Reading

  • 6 Social Media Networks to Watch in 2012 – Plus Infographics
  • Social Media Sharing Trends in 2011- Infographic
  • 7 Top Trends in Social Media
  • Pinterest Drives more Traffic than LinkedIn and Google Plus
  • 7 Ways to Use Pinterest to Promote your Business – Plus Infographic
  • Jeffbullas's Blog


    • Thanks for your comment and insight Glenn. I think there will be a lot of social networks and apps that mix the play with the marketing and it will be interesting to see if some of those are still around in 2-3 years.

    • I was delighted to see an American Express tie-in at one of my favorite restaurants. But when I mentioned the deal, they had no idea what I was talking about and refused to offer the discount. The promotion is not starting off well. : )

    • I agree with Glenn, Jeff. I too was an advocate of FourSquare as soon as I heard of it in the UK. Checked-in everywhere; had a few Mayorships; battled friends. But you can only do that for so long before it gets boring and you start thinking ‘Why am I doing this?’

      The answer: Because I’m waiting for FourSquare to saturate their UK arena with offers and induce a level of gamification that benefits its users – and more importantly, rewards me for playing the game. What’s happened? To this point, pretty much nothing. I stopped using it for about 6 weeks before deciding to delete the app from my phone altogether once I realised that trying to keep up a Mayorship had absolutely no point.

      My point is thus: the online-offline dynamic, especially with mobile, needs to have something exclusive attached to it. Whether that’s content, a coupon or exclusive access to an event…”nothing is free” applies both ways in this relationship without a doubt. 

      Nice post. Thanks Jeff! 

      • This is very well said & I completely agree! I would also like to add in the issue regarding privacy. Unlike other social networks, Foursquare focuses on where you are location-wise. With all of the other networks, adding in your location is optional. Many times I would be somewhere an not want to check in because I had second thoughts with sharing it with my network. Other then seeing who is at a location currently or who was there before…what is the end benefit to me? I get to snoop in on the comings and goings of other people? No…not my speed.

        With all of my other social networks, I can choose to be quite anonymous if need be. I’m not a celebrity…I would rather not have people know where I am at all times.

    • They have to get better analytics for brand pages. You can actually get better analytics on the regular page than you can with Brand Pages. Previous to transitioning to a brand page I could track when people did the tips we input. This is a great data point for proving ROI. That isn’t available on Brand pages.

    • The issue that 4sq has it that the founders are no longer the target market, behaviorally speaking. If you look at the latest promo animation on 4sq, they make almost no mention of points and badges but instead focus on the social sharing aspect of 4sq; which at this point, is quite minimal.

      If 4sq is to be successful they must really partner with businesses and not simply put check-in based ads. The way they do that is to simply provide deals for the points (or badges) that they’ve earned. “1000 points for a free pizza.” or “500 for a movie ticket”. That will address the type of user that is joining now.

      Also, 4sq is not really important per se. The behavior is and this is a great example of adding value through discovery: http://www.cruc.es/foursquare-redlaser-saved-joe-mescher-25-at-best-buy/

      • Thanks Michael for the comment. As social networks are a dynamic environment it can be “evolve or perish” !

    • Thanks for the comment. Yes social network selection is important and is dependent upon the demographic and the goals.

    • Thanks Luis for your comment and insight into what has worked for you with Foursquare.

    • Thanks Jenny for the tips. There is nothing quite so powerful as tapping into a users ego!

    • Thanks Gerry for dropping by an contributing to the discussion. I think in the US that it maybe close to reaching critical mass, whereas in the UK and other locations it has a long way to go.

    • @dc0dc234f5b8a2d470784582ebae0031:disqus  I have wondered this also. How could it be good to broadcast where you are every minute?

      • Thanks Susan for the question, Some love to do it others are much more private. 🙂

    • DIY Kiah

      For an business such as mine (DIYGarageShelf.com)  it is definitely kind of a waste of time in my mind….   Now if you had something like a restaurant, gym, bar, music hall, etc I think it would be great for business…..  just my opinion though.

    • Until the critical mass is such that there are inherent rewards for users checking in and sharing this event to an audience/group of friends that are also on the same ‘check-in’ network, are in the same geographic area, are looking for the same deals, and these rewards are substantiated by the businesses themselves… well, meh.

      But, if you have that, if you can provide users with recommendations and deals in their area at a browsing level, there is some traction that can be made as more and more people upgrade to smartphones.

    • Toon Lowette

      Apart from the gaming aspect (this childish becoming mayor of) I don’t quite understand what it does. Except spoiling my twitter feed with countless check-ins. For me, it is a wast of time. I checked out.

    • I’ve been resolutely sceptical of Foursquare from day one (or thereabouts). However, in the last week or so I’ve been thinking I ought to sign up and have a play with it… from a professionally curious point of view.

      So, this is a perfectly-timed piece! Thanks Jeff.

    • I’ve been resolutely sceptical of Foursquare from day one (or thereabouts). However, in the last week or so I’ve been thinking I ought to sign up and have a play with it… from a professionally curious point of view.

      So, this is a perfectly-timed piece! Thanks Jeff.

    • I really haven’t seen anyone use it to any kind of value in Australia. Businesses don’t really know what to do with it and from an end user perspective, it barely gets a look in with anyone other than social media marketers. Even the show-it-alls in my feed use Facebook places in preference these days.

      It’s kind of like QR code usage over here, only the people in the industry have a clue what to do with the idea of it. And even then it’s not done very effectively (or regularf enough to be effective).

    • I think Foursquare can be effective for certain retailers when used with effective off-line tactics to drive check-ins (like offering a discount or freebie of some sort). While gaming certainly has appeal on FB & some other social networks, it doesn’t appear to me that Foursquare is appealing enough, on it’s gaming platform alone, to have any real impact on B2C sales. Check-in apps shouldn’t be ignored, but should be more of a peripheral marketing tactic, in my opinion. Great read Jeff, thanks.

    • Kristine Allcroft

      Hiya! Great infographic. Our business hasn’t joined Foursquare for one reason: we need to protect the privacy and confidentiality of our customers. We use photos to promote our business on Pinterest describing the jobs we do; but, real time uploading could compromise our relationship with our customers so we don’t!

    • Alvaro Urrejola

      This article seems so out of date. Foursquare is not a check-in app anymore.

    • great post thanks for sharing

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