It started as a typical garage geek project. But then, it changed the very way social media evolved. Welcome to foursquare - a world that blurs the boundaries between the physical and the virtual.
The 411 on 4sq
Juxtaposing the real & the virtual worlds, this massively addictive social platform/city-guide/ location review/deal site/friend-finder /game has garnered over 2 billion ‘check-ins’ accrued from over 20 million active users worldwide. Launched in 2009, foursquare is now a rage amongst Smartphone users who can’t wait to enter their real world geographical locations in their virtual world.
What makes foursquare addictive is the ‘gamification’ of the social platform into a virtual quest of scoring more points than your peers.
Every time a user checks in:
• He/ she is awarded points
• Points are based on frequency of visits, checking in with friends and countless other parameters.
• Badges are unlocked based on the explorations of a city/country etc
• Leader board standings rise/fall based on points accrued when pitted against friends.
• He/she gets a laundry list of brands in and around his current location
• He/she gets to know about special offers only open to foursquare users!
Apart from the score, what’s even more rewarding is the multitude of badges for special accomplishments such as the users first 25 check-ins, or visiting a number of train stations, malls & so on. The badges serve as virtual medals garnered by the user for their continued exploration of the real world, virtually.
Users rush to check in whenever they shift locations, and then subsequently disseminate this information through Facebook/Twitter and also use them as Blackberry messenger status updates! For those who argue against broadcasting real time geographical location, users are also given an option to check in without pushing the information on any social platform, yet gaining points.
Starting from a clean slate of 0 points every week, Foursquare manages to keep its users ready to score more and gain more badges through users in the city or just among friends.
Transcending the game play, what is even more addictive is the position of mayor ship which essentially makes you the virtual king of that location. A user becomes the mayor of a location when they frequent locations more than anybody else. Serious battles are waged everyday for grabbing the mayor ship of a place. More than 78,387 venue mayors are changed every day, worldwide.
Beyond exploring locations and earning points, badges & mayor-ships, what really makes foursquare even more engrossing is the fact that a lot of brands use Foursquare to give out special deals only available to foursquare users.
Special discounts, welcome deals, first time check in treats, giving away free goodies - brands give away all these and many more free goodies to the customers who are active foursquare users. What’s even better are the advantages a mayor gets on becoming the mayor of a particular location. Brands give away a lot of free goodies/ special deals/discounts reserved only for the mayor.
foursquare is also a good place to read tips about the location and check out recommended things to do or droolicious food to dig into! These tips become a good place to start when deciding about a particular location to visit.
Alternatively, foursquare is very useful when trying to figure out a new place to explore. Users can discover places near their geographical location, read its reviews and go ahead to try the suggestions.
Give some, take some!
With every brand offering something or the other on foursquare check-ins abroad, Indian brands are still in the dark about this social platform, leave alone utilizing it to gain more foot fall and create loyal customers in the process.
Driven by conversations and creating buzzwords, events, things and times to share and have conversations about, social media in its entirety helps emulate the real world on a virtual platform which at its very core is driven by the human need of sharing information, talking and exchanging thoughts, ideas and so on.
Foursquare in this scheme of things, is driving conversations by facilitating the very nature of discovering new places, hanging out with friends and being adventurous by checking out locations previously undiscovered.
With brands forming a straight line to hop aboard the social media bandwagon, all of them are more or less only concerned about Facebook and Twitter!
Empowering the user by feeding them with useful, relevant information; Indian brands should check in to Foursquare for:
• Bridging the divide between the real and the virtual world
• Increasing the brand recall by occupying more & more platforms the user is frequenting.
• Disseminating information through 4sq which is taken quite seriously by its user base.
• Essentially being a game that blurs the real and the virtual world, the users are open to knowing more about the brand since the psychological guard against blatant advertising does not show its ugly face here!
• Driving its users to check in more often by offering special offers, this platform is free for the brands to utilize and connect with their users!
Keeping in step with the user, Indian brands should start utilizing this platform soon enough since everyday more and more users are checking in to their favorite restaurants, movie theaters, libraries, eateries, colleges, hotels, homes; name the location and it exists in this virtual universe.
With the corresponding feeds being populated on Facebook/twitter and other platforms, a brand can ensure more visibility generated through an organic source which is any day more trustworthy and garners higher faith than advertising.
Keeping in step with the user, Indian brands should start utilizing this platform soon enough since everyday more and more users are checking in to their favorite restaurants, movie theaters, libraries, eateries, colleges, hotels, homes; name the location and it exists in this virtual universe. With the corresponding feeds being populated on Facebook/twitter and other platforms, a brand can ensure more visibility generated through an organic source which is any day more trustworthy and garners higher faith than advertising.
Indian brands and Foursquare – the growing affair.
ZILCH. ZERO & Non-Existent! Brands haven’t even added 4sq to their list of possible social media platforms to tap. Driven partly by social media agencies conveniently ignoring this platform or failing to make the client understand how to utilize the platform to get better returns, register the brand firmly in the users mind and many more benefits. Indian brands have stayed away from Foursquare. With a universe of possibilities existing for Indian brands to connect with their users better, hardly anyone has utilized this platform.
Among other brands shying away, a few brands are still out there who have managed to score a home run with their user via foursquare!
• Underdoggs; an up market pub& restaurant located in Vasant Kunj campaigns aggressively by offering fresh new deals to users such as a making a choice from among Veg Spring Rolls, Veg Shammi kebabs, Chicken Kabaddi; all for free just by checking in!
• Underdoggs also offers unlimited happy hours for a group of friends if they all check in together and oh yes, not to forget the free drinks, free games and a more personalized service for the mayor!
• Timberland – a global apparel bigwig, again located at Vasant Kunj, is offering a special edition t-shirt for free on your 5th check in at the store!
Underdoggs has been great at keeping it minimal on the advertising front by only utilizing radio to inform its prospects but secondarily diverting their budget towards engaging more and more users through social media.
Utilizing this platform very efficiently and charting the way for other brands to follow, understand and take cues from, ‘Underdoggs’ is a quality example of how a brand can embed themselves in the life of the user.
Raise your weapon!
With the passage of time, advertising has become more streamlined and thus taking your brand the new age way & becoming a more intimate part of your users lifestyle can help you maximize returns without spending an advertising fortune to get the numbers rolling.
Having a psychological reason attached to a place via 4sq is a great way of inducing a sense of belonging of the brand in the users psyche. Giving them more and more reasons to keep coming back and offering them discounts, great deals and special offers only sweetens the deal.
With more and more platforms painting the picture & driving the imagination of the users beyond the usual platforms, content generation and information dissemination is the core prospect driving the boom of social media.
Thus, for brands to adopt this platform as soon as possible would be a great way to connect with their users for FREE.
Moving beyond the used and abused platforms of Facebook & twitter to plan and push a campaign the very way, each and every campaign online is handled; brands should start exploring the avenues on offer by foursquare.
Starting a new trend and forging brand loyalties, a brand can ensure a wider quality reach.
With user generated content at the core of it all, tips left by other users help users decide about the place and if the tip was left by your friend you’re more than likely to take it and discover the place!
Foursquare has yet to come of age in its Indian brands chapter, but then again the graph will head for the heavens eventually. With a handful of brands breaking new ground in using this platform, it’s only a matter of time before everybody checks in & checks this out!
Image Source Nan Palmero