Foursquare Grows Up By Offering Cash-Outs On Check-ins

Even though the geolocation craze is only one-year old, it's about time it grew up and replaced its baby teeth with those that offer a little more of a bite. The 'check-in' game was fun - it was the new shiny thing for a while. While the bragging rights were amusing - like all of life's distractions- it appears that the novelty has lost its sheen - and more is needed to sustain its viability.

Since Foursquare was one of the first out of the gate introducing us to this new world of check-ins, mayorships and badges, it was only appropriate that they were also the first to realize that venues and consumers also need incentives if they are going to continue to support location-based social networks.

On August 14, for one-day-only, the Gap offered a 25-percent discount for all Foursquare members that checked in at one of their stores. In this case, in stead of limiting an offer to "the mayor," Foursquare and the Gap used the network to benefit all check-ins. Differing from similar offers that Twitter and Facebook had struck with stores in the past, no coupons were necessary - because just using Foursquare's standard check-in process qualified users for the discount.

According to a Mashable report, Foursquare has used this formula previously with Ann Taylor, where that department store offered 25-precent off to Foursquare mayors and 15 percent to each customer on his or her fifth check-in.

Foursquare Clings is another variation on the theme. Sent to business owners, clings are designed to stick to window storefronts to remind patrons to check-in on Foursquare. While Whole Foods and some independent restaurants are prominently displaying the stickers, at the time of this posting it was unclear what type of discounts or offers were being used in conjunction with the campaign.

As I have written in the past, these types of promotions are effective, but Foursquare needs to continue to innovate to keep ahead of the LBS curve, not only in fending off its immediate competition, but also in dealing head-on with Facebook and the aggressive moves it's making in attacking this space.

Where Foursquare now has 2.6 million users, more than 150 million users access Facebook from their mobile devices according to a post on the company's official blogsite.

In my recent post titled, "Hot Potato Could Become Facebook's Location-Based Social Network Differentiator," I reported that Facebook now owns Localeze and Hot Pocket, two mobile location-based services that are enabling the network to build a formidable geolocation product. For Foursquare to remain competitive, they will need to play leap-frog very aggressively to keep ahead of the curve  - less it gets swallowed up in Facebook's quake.

UPDATE: AllThingsDigital -August 16- Kara Swisher reported that Foursquare might want to stock up on Mylanta - because Facebook is close to making an announcement as to its 'geolocation' plans. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Facebooks Developers Blog -August 16-  Here is Facebook's official announcement.

Today Facebook released Places, a new way for people on Facebook to share where they are, see where their friends have checked in, and discover interesting places nearby. As part of the rollout, they're making Places available to developers via the Graph API, so you can integrate location features into your own mobile applications, websites, and applications on Facebook.

Once users are granted user permission, you can access a user and their friends' check ins on their behalf. More information on the Graph API can be found here.

Through the Graph API, developers can surface this data in their applications to create a variety of social experiences, such as:

  • A travel application that gives people the ability to see which of their friends have already been to the place they are visiting
  • A conference application that makes it easy for attendees to find colleagues and connect with them
  • An event application that enables attendees to see where their friends are at a concert

In the coming months, they will offer additional location features through the Graph API and the Open Graph protocol, including the ability to check in with Facebook through your application and discover places nearby. We're working with an initial set of partners including Gowalla, Foursquare, Yelp and Booyah's InCrowd to enable users to share check-ins on Facebook. This new functionality will launch in partner applications soon.