Early stage startup marketing & community management + the great outdoors.

Catching Up on Geo-Based Marketing

When Yelp originally added the geo “check in” feature, I was very excited.  I love Yelp and their iPhone app so I immediately put my Foursquare account on hold to focus on learning the ins-and-outs of Yelp.  It was a very polished app but I made the assumption that the content user friendly layout of Yelp would trump Foursquare and, in turn, make Yelp a much more valuable experience.  I was wrong.

What I quickly learned is (i) I shouldn’t underestimate the power of numbers [of users], and (ii) the game concept, in the form of collecting badges, definitely adds a stickiness I had not anticipated.

It’s true that Yelp has a gorgeous iPhone app and I still use it 95% of the time when choosing a restaurant.  Increasingly, however, I’m drawn to checking in on FourSquare, not Yelp.  There is certainly some white noise on FourSquare I’m not interested in hearing about but there was no action on Yelp whatsoever.  In fact, only 6 of the 500+ contacts I imported had Yelp accounts, and none of which used it actively.  What’s the point of taking to your friends if they’re not listening?

The social aspect was the big turning point for me when I decided to ditch Yelp and head sheepishly back to Yelp.  At the time, SxSW (2010) was starting up.  If there was ever a nail in the coffin it’s that I didn’t see a single geo update from those attending SxSw using Yelp – they were all on FourSquare.

Yelp should buy FourSquare but since that probably won’t happy anytime soon, it would be great to see a mesh of the features.  As a consumer of FourSquare and an online marketer I’ve put together a pair of lists where I think FourSquare has value. The first list is for the marketers and small business owners.  There is a lot of value to being first to market in a trendy app like FourSquare – get in on the ground level and you’ll be cranking out ideas while others are just trying to vie for a business account.  The second list is for FourSquare  – items I’d love to see implemented that would further increase the value.  I’ve heard some of these are in the works but nonetheless, I’d love to use them.

How Businesses Can Utilize Geo-Tagging:

I love creative advertising campaigns and FourSquare offers a very fresh look for local marketing options.  Here are a few ideas I’d love to see people capitalize on:

  • Ski resorts could offer a badge for people who “check in” to their resort midweek.  Bonus points if the badge references Ferris Bueller.  This would help promote off-peak hours as well as encourage people to spread the word of their travels to your business to their friends and Twitter followers.  Fraud is obviously an issue with FourSquare as there are currently no distance restrictions on your check-ins (i.e. you could be in Boston and check-into a destination in Maine).  This doesn’t have to be limited to ski resorts by any mean – Hilton Hotels should have a badge for those who check into X number of different Hilton Hotels.
  • Businesses should offer discounts to the “Mayor” of their businesses. This obviously has some scalability challenges (who/how/when is it verified that you’re Mayor?)  but t he rumored business dashboard should help with this.  The more people can compete to be your best patron, the better.
  • Offer a badge to customers – provide a code to access a private check-in (via “friending” your account).  Once provided, people can check in to an otherwise hidden location.  Once checked in they’ll receive a special badge.  Your account administrator controls who is granted the access.  Scalability issues exist but would be a great test of customer acquisition.
  • Be sure to add tips and to-do’s for your business.  Not only does this allow people to interact but any nearby pedestrians will be alerted to your business’ location.  Any current promotions should also be added.

Mashable has more good ideas on how to capitalize on your location-based marketing efforts here.

Products I’d love to see from FourSquare:

  • More business promotions & unique badges!
  • More Data & Lists – I’d love to visit the most popular restaurant in Boston, according to # of visits, upcoming restaurants, where my friends check in most, who I check in with most frequently…
  • Thumbs up/down to tips & to-do’s – The ignore feature is a start but I’d like people to burry the worthless tips before I even see them.
  • List Upcoming Venues – In addition to “where I am”, the ability to create a list of “where I’m going” (venue’s could expire from the list after 24 hours to keep lists fresh and accurate).
  • Add venue photos – A picture is worth a thousand words, especially when I’m hunting for the store front and the venue creator  was halfway down the block when they added the location.
  • Tagging people in “shout outs” – Similar to Twitter & Facebook’s @ feature.
  • Privacy and/or list options – I don’t want all people to see all things all the time.  I’d share more if I could restrict who it was going to.
  • Mashup of map + distance to friends – if I’m out in the city I’d like to know which friends are nearby.  I’m much more likely to meet up with a friend two blocks away than 10 miles.
  • TextSquared” – “an application that allows you to send selected check-ins as text messages or e-mails to non-Foursquarers that you’d like to meet up with” (via Mashable)  The bulk of my friends are still not on FourSquare so this would add value for me as a user and also to gain exposure for FourSquare.
  • Make lists of venues to visit – a “wish list” of sorts.  Sometimes I see great venues that have no tips but I’d like to visit in the near future.  This would help encourage the “find new venues” aspect of FourSquare.
  • New Contact Alerts – Option to store my imported Gmail contacts and alert me when new people from my contacts join FourSquare

Those features would just about perfect FourSquare for me.  I’d love to hear your thoughts – are they helpful, pointless?  Feel free to leave a message below or @ me on Twitter.

Thanks, Matt

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