Foursquare: Good for users, Great for businesses!
Foursquare is one of the latest social smart phone apps to gather momentum in the UK. It wasn't too long ago when people were starting to hear of the Twitter buzz, and from there, the channel has gone from strength to strength. Foursquare isn't new though, it's been with us since 2009 and has acquired a rather cult following, although it is yet to break into the UK mainstream the way Twitter or Facebook has.
A brief recap of gamification.
A couple of weeks ago, I posted to the Fresh Egg blog about a conference I attended in London where the subject of gamification was mentioned on several occasions. If you missed that post, you can
- Social gratification.
What is Foursquare?
Essentially, Foursquare is a gamified version of Facebook Places concept. This social app allows you to use GPS data to 'check' yourself into a location you are at. In addition, you can also leave tips at these places for other users to bear in mind if they check in there. The app also highlights other places around you that you may like, based on where your friends have been checking in, and what tips are around.
There's an element of social competition though, as check-ins get you points, and these go on a leader board among your friends. The idea is really simple, but it's extremely powerful, so there's never been a better time to get on it as a user, or register some engagement on it as a business.
How has it been gamified?
The biggest reason why users become loyal to the app is because it has been gamified extremely well, meaning it is really fun to use! Foursquare has introduced a points system, so check-ins help you climb the leader boards among your friends. You'll get more points when you check into new places, and all locations are categorised where there are further opportunities to earn points.
You can also earn badges for your check-ins, which are displayed on your profile; chasing them is extremely addictive as you naturally want them all. You'll earn easy badges after ten, 25 and 50 check-ins but some of them are a little harder, and how you earn them will remain a mystery until you unlock them. For example you can earn the 'Bender' badge if you check in to a bar or entertainment venue four nights in a row. These sorts of fun badges are great for displaying on your profile and encourage you to further use the app.
You can earn status too through having the most points and topping the board. This can become friendly competition as you battle to become number one (we have some experience of this as an SEO agency!). Status is also given in the form of 'Mayorships' -
You can become the Mayor of any location by checking in there the most frequently. This is publically displayed and encourages rivalry between people for these coveted Mayorships. The Mayorships can also bring in added benefits to users, which we'll look at soon.
Don't forget though, all this is being publically shared. Foursquare encourage you to sync the app with your Facebook and Twitter accounts too, so by checking in, you are sharing your progress and unlocks with your friends.
Usage of Foursquare.
Foursquare has reported over ten million users worldwide since the end of Q2 this year. The app has taken off more across the pond in the USA, and some Asian countries have also adopted the app well.
This isn't to say it is not being used in the UK, but there is certainly room for growth, and this is the perfect chance to get on board.
Is Foursquare better than Facebook Places?
This is commonly the biggest question people ask themselves. Why should they have to use a different app to check-in when they can just do it on Facebook? There are a number of great things about Facebook Places, and these can throw the cat among the pigeons. More people are on Facebook, so checking in and sharing this with friends is a bit more meaningful, and since everything in Facebook is so self-contained it makes it easier and quicker to use.
The newly introduced Facebook Timeline (still not currently available to everyone) has also brought a new dimension to checking in, as everything you do gets logged on a map, so people can view all the places you've been during your time on Facebook. From a chronological perspective, this is far superior to Foursquare.
Foursquare has good points too of course. Firstly it's just a lot of fun. Foursquare can feel like a game. You can log into it, see what people are up to and what is around you a lot more than you would with Facebook Places.
The scoreboards are good fun too because this interaction with your friends is really what social apps are all about; sharing experiences with the people close to you.
Perhaps the biggest advantage though, is the prizes and discounts some businesses offer. This hasn't totally taken off yet, but it's getting there certainly. As a business, you can offer special deals or freebies for the Mayor of your premises, or anyone who checks in. Basically, users can get rewarded for checking into places and sharing them with their friends on Foursquare, Twitter or Facebook. Wetherspoons and Domino's Pizza are at the forefront of this.
There are a few other benefits to using Foursquare, including more advanced check-ins such as to specific movies at the cinema rather than just 'Odeon Brighton' or something along those lines. The tips around you are also helpful, as you can see what your friends have been recommending or doing.
Foursquare currently has some issues with the location accuracy of check-ins due to fairly low usage still. This is another benefit to Facebook Places, but it's not enough to put you off trying Foursquare.
Why should businesses get on Foursquare?
If you offer specials on Foursquare for users, you can encourage people to check into your business and come in and spend some money. Regular customers and people who champion your business are potentially the most important customers you can have; so why not reward these people, and encourage them to continue spreading the word?
Imagine the average person has 200 Facebook friends, and 150 Twitter followers (as well as their Foursquare friends). If they sync the platforms properly, every time they check-in to your business they are telling over 350 people about the positive experience they are having. Businesses can also set GPS tags that inform users of their specials when they are in the area. This is another great way of social media marketing.
All this is totally free too, so what have you got to lose? You never know, interaction on Foursquare could build your brand image and you could appear more relevant to the target audience of Foursquare, which is actually surprisingly varied.
A quick recap.
Users love playing social games, and Foursquare is definitely a good example of this.
You should reward your customers for helping them promote your business to their peers with special offers.
Users should get on the app because it's great fun and you can earn loads of cool shiny badges!
In terms of the battle between Foursquare and Facebook Places, you need to decide what you want from each app. Foursquare is a game, it's fun, social and competitive. Facebook Places can become part of your lifestyle. It can help you log your world travels, and give meaning and context to your photos and status updates.
If like me you choose the gaming option; then I'm currently the Mayor of the new Fresh Egg offices in Worthing, so if you're around come by and check in if you think you can steal the Mayorship! Let the games begin.