» Time to Play Foursquare

This post written by Sonny Ganguly, CMO of WeddingWire, you can follow him on Twitter @sonnyg. A full version of this article is available in the Education Center. Sonny leads WeddingWire’s marketing strategy, customer acquisition, and business development.

Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare…Ohh My!  Social networks have been growing like weeds over the past couple years.  Facebook has crossed over 600 million users, while Twitter recorded 25 billion tweets in 2010!  Last year another trend in social networking started to emerge: Location Based Networks.  The leader in this space has been foursquare, which has millions of people leaving a trail of where they are.

The concept of location based networks is simple, which leverages the best of social media and mixes in your physical location through your mobile device.  This trend started to take off in 2010 due to the rise of smartphones, with iPhone and Android leading the pack.  A location based network allows users to communicate with each other like on social networks, but also allows them to share details of where they are physically located.

Foursquare has considerable competition in this space, such as GoWalla and brightkite, which also allow users to share their locations with friends.  Even more interesting is that Facebook and Twitter have tried to add location data to their sites as well.  Facebook last year launched Places, which allows you to share your location with your existing Facebook connections.  Twitter now allows you to add your location to posts, whether from your computer or your mobile device.   Location based networks allow for a whole new type of interaction, but it also does raise some security concerns.  Let’s focus on foursquare and what it means for your business.

Why do people care about checking in and sharing their location?

Because you can become a Mayor!  Foursquare has made their location based network into a type of game that blends virtual activity with the real world.  If you ‘check in’ to the same location more times than anyone else, you will be crowned the Mayor of that particular location.  You must continue checking into that location to maintain your mayorship, otherwise someone  else will  unseat you.  Another component that drives ‘check ins’ are the ability to get Badges, which are virtual icons to symbolize your achievements on foursquare.  As  you ‘check in’ to various locations, you may be awarded a badge to show off.  Here are some of the badges you can get:

Adventurer – Check in to 10 different places

Barista – Check in to 5 different Starbucks locations

Don’t Stop Believing – Check into 3 different venues tagged as ‘karaoke’ in a month

Gym Rat – Check into a venue tagged ‘gym’ 10 times in 30 days

I’m on a Boat – Check in and include the word ‘boat’ in your post

School Night – Check in after 3am on a school night

What it Means for Your Business?

If you have a physical location or work out of an office, you should add your business to foursquare.  This will allow for any foursquare users to ‘check in’ to your business if they visit.  If someone is nearby, they will easily be able to see your business listed and can then tell their friends that they visited your business.  Furthermore, if you are throwing an event at a location you can add it to foursquare, which will allow people to ‘check in’ to the event and let all of their friends know about it.  This can work extremely well for bridal shows, trunks shows, open houses, cake tastings, etc.

It costs nothing to add your location to foursquare, so it does not hurt to give it a try.  You can also take ownership of your business, which requires foursquare to check to make sure you are related to the company.  Once that happens, you will be able to log in and see more detailed statistics of who is ‘checking in’ and how often.

If you don’t have a location to add, foursquare can still be a fun way to connect and interact with friends and customers.  For example, I was at a recent football game and ‘checked in.’  I noticed that two of my friends had also ‘checked in’ to game, but never told me they were coming.  I was able to send them both messages and we met up at halftime.  With a traditional post on social media, this may have not been possible.  I would have come home and realized that they had both been there.  By adding location data to our updates it opens up new boundaries.  It’s time to play foursquare!