Are Mayors & Freebies Enough For Foursquare To Square Off With Twitter & Facebook?
Foursquare, the young-upstart, game-like location-based social network has gained a lot of traction not only for its unique geolocation services, but also from the 'freebies' Mayors can obtain competitively on its API. 2010 is going to be the year of geo-targeting and unless Twitter and Facebook make their move and out maneuver the little guy, Foursquare may dominate the world of location-based commerce.
As Foursquare is predicated on the concept of check-ins, the service can track usage at any establishment (restaurant, bar, gym, etc.), determine who is racking up the most check-ins and reward winners with "mayorships" and "badges." Achieving these goals, users receive special offers and the operation builds patronage. The service in essence becomes an extension of a venue's marketing campaign because of the intrinsic word-of-mouth viral components
So how does this differ from local companies offering the same freebie on Twitter or Facebook? Wouldn't one tweet on Twitter or a coupon offer on a Facebook Fan page create more buzz than a Foursquare check-in?
For one, the deal would be a stand-alone or a one-off. Twitter and Facebook presently have no built-in promo mechanism, nor a frequency program that prompts people to return. Secondly, since Twitter and Facebook are mainstream and have a greater user-base, the operation might be giving out a lot more free stuff to one-time patrons. Conversely, Foursquare, on the other hand is building customer-loyalty and users are gaining bragging rights that keeps the process self-perpetuating.
To qualify on Foursquare, those vying for the office of mayor simply show their 'earned' badges on their iPhone or Android handset (BlackBerry phones are coming soon) and the operator or server will reward them accordingly. Basic check-ins may get discounts, but it is the mayors who are usually awarded the major freebies.
So what is some of the swag that is attracting loyal Foursquare Mayors to continue to return to Foursquare venues in cities around the world?
Patxi' Chicago Pizza, a San Francisco Bay Area restaurant offers one free pizza a week when you obtain mayorship (how many pizza competitors will follow suit?)
Blynk Organic, the Charlotte, North Carolina eatery has announced that the mayor eats free (earned a ton of publicity as a result).
Barrel NY on 42 W. 24th Street in Manhattan offers mayors free access to the establishment's liquor cabinet. (Since this company is a web consulting firm, not quite sure where that liquor cabinet is located?)
Medicine Agency's Gallery in San Francisco is offering Mayor's a free "Dodger's Suck" T-shirt. (I'm guessing the folks at MAG are San Francisco Giant's fans!)
Barrington Area Library is Barrington, Illinois allows Mayors to choose a free book when they check-in with the librarian! (Do Foursquare users frequent libraries?)
Reisinger's Cafe in Vienna, Austria is awarding their mayors a free drink! (makes you want Vienneze Waltz on over, doesn't it?)
Wow Bao, a hot asian bun eatery where you can also ship items anywhere in the US or receive bicycle deliveries to your home or office if you live in Chicago. They offer mayors a free 6 pack! (this one was actually tweeted to my attention after I published this blog - ah, the power of Web 2.0)
There are presently over 400 businesses running geo-triggered promotions (similar to the above) with operations in over 100 cities worldwide. However, there is no monetization scheme yet in place which may be Foursquare's Achilles heel. As sizeable as Twitter and Facebook are, if and when they decide to jump into the location-based space, Foursquare might wash up in their wake. My previous blogs, "Geotagged Tweets Coming To A City Near You!" and "Facebook May Thwart Location-Based Social Network Growth" both cover the topic of encroachment by Twitter and Facebook.
For Fourquare to thrive, it needs to design a business model with the local establishment partners that presently have Foursquare offers. This can be accomplished via advertising, sponsorhips or memberships. For example, if Foursquare was to strike a financial partnership deal with a world-wide fast food operator like McDonald's, the revenue and exposure benefit would be sizeable. With Twitter's recent acquisition of Mixer Labs and their GeoAPI and Facebook's 350 million active users, the little guy might be squeezed out if and when these 800-pound gorillas seize that type of opportunity for themselves!