The New Media Eye | by Nick Paonessa

TAG | Dodgeball



Foursquare: Where’s Waldo and Why Should You Care?

What is Foursquare?

Foursquare is a location based, social media based website that simply, lets your friends (… and Waldo’s friends) know where you are. There are several websites that do the same thing. Others include, Gowalla (, Facebook Places (integrated right into Facebook) and Google’s Latitute ( formally called “Dodgeball” which was created by one of the Foursquare founders, Dennis Crowley. I personally use Foursquare.

More than one person has asked me. “Why would anyone care where I am?” “Who would use this?” and “What’s the point?” Currently Foursquare, reports to have over 8 million users. While those aren’t Facebook numbers (600+ million users) or Twitter numbers (200+ million users) considering it’s barely 2 years old, users and potential investors alike are taking this New York based company seriously.

Why and how do people use it?

To understand Foursquare you have to apply the same thinking that you would in trying to understand the value in any social media.  As a user, what I do is try and look beyond the technology and ask myself a simple question. “How will this make my life better?” When we put it in this context, the question of “Who cares where you are?” becomes less relevant.

For example, when I check in at a restaurant, Foursquare may have tips from people who have previously checked in to that location. While that information may be useful, for me, better and more authoritative information comes from my personal social network. So, as soon as I check into a restaurant, through an API, (Application Programming Interface) when I press the “Check in here” button, it cross posts where I am to Facebook and Twitter. Inevitably, within minutes, someone in my direct social network will send me a text message or a Facebook message or tweet me recommending what to order or what to avoid based on their experience. It’s the equivalent of calling all your friends and relatives and saying “I’m going to Johnny Rockets on Friday night.  Has anyone been there? What do you recommend?”  Obviously this would be impossible to do. But with location based social media, I press one button and good, quality information from people I trust starts coming in. After all, these are your friends. They inherently want to help you. That’s the whole point of social media. Isn’t it? It’s what I like to call “crowd sourcing”.

This definitely makes my life better. So that question is answered.

But it doesn’t stop at restaurants. From parking tips, to short cuts, to traffic detours…. I’ve received a ton of useful information from my direct social network just because I let people know where I am.

So Why Should Businesses Care?

My hair dresser asked me that very question as I was sitting waiting to get my hair cut last week. As I did the 2 thumb dance on my phone, he asked what I was doing. I told him I was “checking in”.  He looked at me as if I had 3 heads. Seconds after I pressed the “Check in here” button, I said “Your welcome.”

He said, “For what?”

“Because I just exposed the name of your salon and the address to my whole social network.” Then he perked up. As I sat in the chair I continued to explain the whole concept of “The Mayor”. That the person who checks into the salon the most times, becomes “The Mayor” of the salon.  I went on to explain that he could then create a promotion that would give the current “Mayor” 25% off any hair services. This would encourage people to come into the salon and check-in.  Since most people that check in with location based services also cross post to other social networks and most people have, on average, 130 friends on these social networks, you don’t need to use a calculator to see the value in engaging social media as a marketing strategy and including location based components.

It’s clear to see how with a little creativity, many promotions can be weaved into location based social media and with the help of built-in APIs to also have those promotions  feed into other social media vehicles such as Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, etc.

Please feel free to share this post. I welcome your comments.

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