I recently attended Eloqua Boot Camp, a three-day intense training for new employees. It’s been a great way to learn more about the company, network with other Eloqua newbies and explore the location of the company’s largest office – Toronto, Canada. Unfortunatley for me, it has also meant being cut off from my new favorite obsession, foursquare.
I’d like to blame my recent hectic travel schedule for my not contacting Verizon in advance of my trip to switch to a global data cell plan, but the truth is that I kinda forgot that Canada is indeed a separate country (it happens). What that means is my phone has basically been rendered useless and, while my laptop will suffice for the majority of my business and personal technology needs, foursquare requires a phone and thus, has been taken away from me. And here’s the thing … I miss it.
What exactly is it that I am missing? Foursquare is a GPS-enabled social networking site that involves checking in (from your mobile device) at your current location (airport, restaurant, hair salon, gym, etc.), broadcasting that information to your network of foursquare friends and earning badges and points for doing so. Badges range from the easy to acheive (you get one – Newbie! – for your very first check in) to the elusive (the Swarm badge – earned by being in a location where 50+ other foursquare users have checked in at the same time). No bragging, but I have both. The Gym Rat badge (10 check-ins at your gym in a 30-day span) remains out of reach, however.
I’m relatively new to foursquare but as it has become more pervasive in the event planning community latley, I decided it was time to investigate. Last month, I attended an Ad Club of Boston event with foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley (@dens) and was completley enamored with his story. The idea came from an MBA thesis (of course) that answered the question: “Where should we hang out tonight?” Dennis and his co-founders/friends thought it would be easier to broadcast their location to their network than to send an email asking where their destination should be. From there emerged the idea of competition because, let’s face it, we all like to earn things for doing very little. And who doesn’t want to be rewarded for, say, being on a boat? Thus, foursquare was born. And I’m hooked.
As an event planner, it’s a great way to engage attendees at your conference (earn badges for attending track sessions), promote networking (create check-in locations within the sponsor expo floor) and build excitement (the “mayor” of the overall event walks away with a sick prize and recognition at the black-tie awards dinner). As a marketer, think of the great opportunities it provides to connect with your customers and prospects. Relating to them on a personal level can only deepen your professional relationship (“I ordered Thai for our lunchtime pitch because I saw you checked in at that new trendy Thai place and remarked how much you loved it!”). Also, a mayor (awarded to the foursquare user who checks in at a venue more than any other user)is the ultimate brand ambassador. Why not take your restaurant or hotel or whatever product you’re selling and reward the mayor with, for example, a free draft of his favorite brew every time he checks in? Or a free personal training session at the gym? Customers get free stuff – win! Your brand gets loyalty for life – win WIN! In a move I clearly would’ve championed, Starbucks announced that it would be partnering with foursquare to give official Starbucks mayors a $1 discount on their frappuccinos. Mainstream, I think we’ve just arrived.
It might not be as meta as Twitter or as enagaging as Facebook, but foursquare can be plain fun and I think there is something to be said for just enjoying social media for what it is. While foursquare is by no means as popular as either of its social media brothers, it took just a little over one year to hit one million users (a feat that took Twitter about two years). Your customers are there; shouldn’t you be too? I’d answer you, but I’m heading back to the States and I need to hit the gym … that badge will be mine, oh yes, it will be mine.