Dubbed "the next Twitter" by some tech experts, Foursquare is a location-based social networking website that tracks its users' whereabouts as they "check-in" on their smartphones from wherever they happen to be. Users can then elect to share this information, along with comments on the places they visit, with friends and colleagues on Foursquare, or through personal networks such as Twitter and Facebook.
Launched in 2009 with limited availability, Foursquare expanded in January to allow check-ins from any location worldwide. The site has nearly 1.6 million subscribers, according to Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley, and is adding 15,000 users per day. Mashable noted recently that the site has recorded more than 40 million check-ins, almost double the 22 million total it reported just five weeks ago. It's not surprising that some think Foursquare is the next big thing on the social media playground.
Foursquare doesn't just share your location with your network; it also serves as a game, pairing virtual rewards with real activities, according to Social Media Examiner. Users can earn badges by checking-in at different locations. Visit a location more times than anyone else, and you become the "mayor." You can also add tips to a venue for other users suggesting great things to do, see or eat at the location.
The explosive growth of Foursquare reflects the rise of location-based marketing in general, as consumers become more comfortable with being 'tracked' through their GPS-equipped smartphones. In March, Starbucks deployed the first-ever nationwide mayor special, offering a $1 discount to mayors of individual Starbucks stores. Other ways to reward loyal customers include check-in specials (Check-in 10 times? That's a free drink for you!), or frequency-based specials (Users receive 20 percent off any entrée every 5th check-in).
Event marketing is another good application for Foursquare. Creating an event-specific venue drives attendance and encourages audience participation. For step-by-step instructions on how to set up a venue, check out this blog post by Tradeshow Insight: A Practical Guide to Creating Foursquare Events. For ISTE 2010, we've created a venue named "CB&A's Media Central at ISTE" for attendees to check-in via Foursquare. An added bonus - those who check-in will be entered in a drawing for a fun prize!
For more information on how to leverage Foursquare for business, visit http://www.foursquare.com/business.