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What PR Pros Need to Know About Foursquare

Foursquare Pins and Tattoos - SXSW 2010

This is a guest post by Alison Kenney.

I’ve heard Foursquare referred to as the hottest new marketing tool.  But personally, I’m not a huge fan.  In fact, according to this Fast Company article, I’m in the apathy stage.  I just don’t feel the need to compete for badges and mayorships — and not enough contacts in my personal network use it to make it a useful communication tool.  However, I am intrigued by its marketing and PR potential.

Here’s why Foursquare matters to marketers:

Your audience is game. This CNN story on Foursquare creator Dennis Crowley illustrates the appeal of Foursquare to a certain type of consumer — someone such as Crowley — who enjoys playing virtual contests, or someone who loves the challenge of new e-games.  Foursquare can be a new way to connect with your target audience or even a way to reach a new audience.

Foursquare can reinforce your brand loyalty. Retailers like Starbucks and Dominos (in the UK) are testing Foursquare as a way to identify enthusiastic customers by rewarding them with coupons and discounts based on the number of times they “check in” using Foursquare.

Mobile and geo-location technologies are the future. According to Yankee Group president and author of the book, “Anywhere: How Global Connectivity Is Revolutionizing the Way We Do Business.’’ Emily Nagle Green says that Google’s decision to put mobile first in their business is a telling indicator.  Yahoo! also seems to be throwing its hat into the geo-location ring with its recent purchase of Kropol.  A recent report from Juniperstates that all mobile location-based services may contribute a total revenue of $12.7 billion by 2014.

Location-based services are a natural fit for tourism and travel related brands. More than ever people are turning to the Web to plan their travel itineraries, find recommendations and map their trips.  Foursquare can be a fun way to engage travelers and tourists during the process.  The city of Chicago’s tourism office is encouraging people to recreate a scene from the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off using Foursquare.   The state of Pennsylvania is leveraging social media to promote tourism too and has created special Foursquare badges just for Pennsylvania sites and uses Foursquare to provide tips for visiting Pennsylvania destinations.

Content generators now have another medium to reach their audience. The NY Times has aggregated its content for a new free iPhone app for visitors to Manhattan and Brooklyn and also offers integration with Foursquare for convenient check ins, i.e. convenient links to NY Times content.

Event marketers use Foursquare to drive participation. In addition to allowing users to know who is nearby or attending the same event, Foursquare can help event marketers increase participation.  Last week fashion designer Cynthia Rowley launched the Cynthia Rowley Bridesmaids collection with the help of Foursquare and gave attendees at its launch unveiling a special gift if they checked in on Foursquare.  (Visitors who check in at the store Lovely Bride during the week after the launch also receive 15% off their bridesmaid dress order.)

Whether Foursquare is here to stay, or not, smart marketers and PR pros are considering location-based social media as part of their integrated marketing plan.  Are you?

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on Learn more about Alison Kenney.


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