Friday, 2 July 2010

Foursquare – The next big thing?

Marketers are constantly looking for the ‘next big thing’ in social media, and Foursquare is the widely touted frontrunner this year. Part game, part loyalty scheme, Foursquare is a free service that combines social networks and maps, allowing users to check in at locations all over the world through their smart phones and the internet, receiving points and rewards.

There are many ways for venues to reward their customers through Foursquare. Perfect for independent stores and food outlets, the simplest of these offers a discount to anyone who checks in, encouraging trial and repeat return. Outlets may also benefit from Foursquare’s ‘Tips’ function, where users can find recommendations from other customers on any subject from the best thing on the menu to the best seat in the house.

Many more prolific companies are taking Foursquare discounting to the next level, and offering special deals to anyone who becomes Mayor of their outlet. Users can become Mayor by checking in regularly at one venue, with only one person holding the title of Mayor at any one time. Companies like Starbucks and Dominos offer free products to the Mayor of each of their stores, rewarding users for regular check ins. These promotions do have their drawbacks (not least, how to stop your full time employees becoming Mayor rather than your customers!) but they capture the spirit of Foursquare by treating the Mayor position as special and desirable.

However, my favourite Foursquare campaign was a little more complicated, and a lot more fun. Jimmy Choo, the designer shoe brand, recently used Foursquare to host a real-time treasure hunt which allowed users to win a pair of their new trainers. Catch a Choo saw a single pair of trainers checking in at fashionable locations around London, and sending updates about their whereabouts. The first person to reach the venue and catch the trainers won a pair in their size.

This campaign combined relevancy and talkability to brilliant effect. As a well-known shoe lover, I had several friends sending me links to the story and saw it mentioned time and time again in my social media channels. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to join in this time, as I’m not based in London, but the message around the launch of Jimmy Choo trainers got through to me loud and clear. Should the brand ever repeat the exercise with their high heels, I might find an excuse to work from the London office for a while!

Do you think Foursquare is overhyped or the next big thing? Should marketers be embracing it regardless?

Photo credit: Jimmy Choo

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