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Content marketing: Foursquare. Tweets with benefits?

July 22, 2010

It’s 9pm and you’re in a restaurant waiting for a table. While you’re standing around trying to blend in with the crowd, you whip out your phone and “check in” on Foursquare. Afterwards, you make your way to a new bar down the road for a few drinks. You check in again to let your network of friends know exactly where you are.

Right now, Foursquare is the shiny new social media play thing. It receives some 1.6 million “check-ins” each week and users have skyrocketed in the past couple of months – to the point where many people are now touting it as the next Twitter. And, as you would expect with any media platform that attracts such a huge following, the usual players are watching very closely from the sidelines. Yahoo, for one, has already made one bid of $125 million for the start-up. And you can bet your bottom marketing dollar that the king of locally served advertising, Google, is also watching wide eyes open.

At first glance, the success of Foursquare is based on the assumption that your friends and family actually want to know your exact whereabouts 24 hours of the day. Sure, your wife might want to know why you checked into a massage parlor at 3am and your boss certainly would be very curious to know what you were doing at Pebble Beach at 9am when you had just called in sick for the day, but how many people really want – or need – to know that you were in, say, Taco Bell at 2pm and at the local ER at 4.45? (hopefully those two experiences were not linked!)

But while your circle of friends might not really care to know your precise geographical location on the planet at any given time, there is one group of people in particular who will find that information hugely appealing – advertisers.

So, you’re at 50th and 8th in Manhattan? Great, here’s a special offer for a triple soy extra foam latte at Starbucks across the street. Woman’s retailer Anne Taylor recently began offering discounts for repeat customers who check in, and even bigger discounts for those who checked in the most. New York yogurt store Tasti-D-Lite effectively uses Foursquare as its very own customer loyalty program.

“For advertisers, the places you go to are much more interesting than the web sites you click on,” says Sam Altman, founder of Loopt, a Foursquare-like geo-location service.

It is hard to say exactly where Foursquare is heading in the future and what exactly its applications in the ad industry are going to be in the long run. One thing is for sure is that consumers are going to need to be rewarded pretty handsomely if they are going to keep “checking in” after they have already posted their whereabouts to multiple social media platforms.

After all, everybody has a life outside of Facebook and Twitter, don’t they! 🙂

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