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What is Foursquare & What Does it Mean for Your Business?

Location based applications and services have increased in popularity and usage recently. This explosion is in part due to the power of GPS (Global Positioning System) and the convenience of these tools. One of the newest location based applications to hit the streets is Foursquare. Foursquare is a location based social application that can also be viewed as a social networking site. Foursquare is only in the early adoption phase but has been growing very quickly. The latest reports on Foursquare's rapid growth are rather impressive. About two weeks ago, over the course of 10 days, Foursquare grew by nearly 100,000 users. The most recent estimate from the company puts Foursquare at almost 725,000 users (in less than a year of existence). As with the emergence of any new tool or application, there are many questions and misunderstandings surrounding Foursquare. This blog post should help answer some of these questions, shed some light on this new application and also offer insight into how this tool can be used.

Foursquare is a location based social application that is powered by GPS and your smart phone (including the iPhone and Blackberry). Foursquare can also be seen as a social game. Its main purpose is to let your friends know where you are and allow you to figure out where your friends are at any point in time. Its second purpose is for users to earn points, prizes, coupons and become the "mayor" of their favorite local establishments.

Foursquare as a Social Game

The social gaming layer comes into play when users try to oust the current mayor of local bars, restaurants, gyms, etc. The Foursquare user with the most check-ins at a location becomes the mayor. Points are earned for each check-in. Users are rewarded more points for exploring different parts of the city, visiting multiple spots in one night, bringing people with them, etc. Some experts believe that it is this gaming aspect of Foursquare that sets it apart from other location based services such as Brightkite and Google Latitude. With Foursquare, your check-ins and activity actually mean something and this may be what drives users to this service. The game becomes more important than simply letting people know where you are at all times.

Foursquare can help you find other users in your city through your existing social networks such as Twitter. These connections will help your friends know where you are and will help you find out where they are. Users can add tips and to-dos about establishments that are shared with their friends and the general public. Users can post drink specials, dinner discounts, busiest times of the day and more. The more users in the area, the more tips that will be available. Foursquare's GPS feature knows where you are and offers a way to find out where to go in that area.

Using Foursquare for Business

So how can Foursquare, a location based social application be used for your business and marketing strategies? Much like Yelp with reviews, Foursquare encourages check-ins that in turn create buzz about the establishment. The main goal of any business is to gain more repeat visitors/customers. If your business is active on Foursquare, you can offer customers a reason to come back in the form of points, coupons, mayorship, etc. It is important to reward Foursquare users for their patronship and loyalty through the use of discounts, coupons, etc.

It is also critical to inform patrons that you are an active user on Foursquare. This can be achieved through spreading the word on Twitter, Facebook and your main site. Once users know that you are participating, they will be more likely to come to your establishment to gain points, discounts and bragging rights as the "mayor" of your establishment.

Location based social applications are one of the newest pieces of the social media pie. Foursquare is the first of its kind that offers users something different and gets people involved. It is yet to be seen how much and how fast this application will catch on. It has not yet reached the popularity and usage of sites such as Twitter, but some believe that it has all the necessary tools to become wildly successful once people and businesses begin to understand its usage and potential.

Update: April 16 (4/16) is Foursquare Day. An event that was organized in the attempt to promote this new social medium as well as spread the word on how Foursquare can help businesses and restaurants in cities/towns around the world. Foursquare Day is the perfect chance to at least try this new social medium to see if it can work for you both as a consumer as a business/restaurant owner. Take this opportunity to familiarize yourself and become more comfortable with Foursquare since it could be the next big thing- and you don't want to be late to the party! 

What to know how to get start leveraging this tool to increase your sales/business... read what the company itself has to say about using Foursquare for Business