At the South by Southwest Conference (SXSW) in 2007, Twitter burst onto the scene, capturing the attention of thousands of early adopters, bloggers, and businesses. Some companies such as Comcast, Zappos, and Dell embraced Twitter early – and few would argue that they didn’t get their money’s worth.
Now another social media tool that wowed SXSW has become the talk of the town – Foursquare. The mobile, location-based social network is growing like wildfire and attracting a lot of attention from the same crowd that helped bring Twitter into prominence. See the parallels?
Just because Twitter and Foursquare have a similar story does not mean that they present the same opportunities for savvy businesses. As a small business, you have limited resources and nowhere near enough time to explore every social network.
So let’s ask two simple questions: is there a real opportunity for businesses that embrace Foursquare? And do you need to jump on the Foursquare bandwagon now or risk being left in the dust?
The Opportunities Are Different
Foursquare is not like Facebook, Twitter, or any other social network. People don’t log onto their computers to check what their friends are doing. On Foursquare, friends “check in” to different locations like the movie theater or a favorite bar that is then broadcast to all of their Foursquare friends. It is all done on mobile phone apps, iPhone push notifications, and mobile web interfaces. Thus, the opportunities presented by Foursquare are different.
The question to ask is this: what can a business do with location-based information? The answer depends on the type of business you have. Brick-and-mortar stores with a specific location can immediately advertise to users within their proximity -- restaurants are already using Foursquare-specific discounts and location-based advertising to pull in new customers.
If you’re an Internet-based business though, the opportunities can be harder to envision. Location isn’t a particularly useful piece of information for ecommerce websites – it really only matters for shipping. There also isn’t an easy way for a brand to build a presence on Foursquare – it’s not as if Coca-Cola itself is visiting the local 24 Hour Fitness or dance club. However, Foursquare recently introduced the ability to “follow” celebrities, making it easier for those with personal brands to build a presence on the location-based social network.
Should You Be Jumping on the Bandwagon?
There’s no easy answer to that question, and it brings up yet another question: how should you jump on the bandwagon if you decide to dive right in? Local businesses may be better off advertising and offering mayorship deals on Foursquare, while larger corporations and online companies may want to consider strategic partnerships or building a presence on Foursquare surrounding an individual.
Foursquare’s still very, very young, and it would be accurate to say that it has a long way to go in integrating brands into its service. Thus, before diving right in, have a plan in place for how exactly you will use Foursquare, and make sure that it’ll provide you with more return on your investment than if you had done something else with your time.Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Alexsl