February 16, 2010

How is FourSquare changing marketing?

A little mobile ap called Foursquare, that was introduced last year at SXSW has exploded in popularity this year and is being rumored to be the next Twitter as a new generation of "location based services" (or LBS) including Foursquare and GoWalla are set to take over the mobile social networking scene in 2010.

What is a Location Based Service (LBS)?

A LBS is an information and entertainment service, accessible with mobile devices through the mobile network and utilizing the ability to make use of the geographical position of the mobile device via its GPS (global positioning system) sensor. (Wikipedia)

Some examples of LBS could be:

  • Turn by turn navigation to any address
  • Locating people or places on a map displayed on the mobile phone
  • Receiving local alerts, such as notification of a sale on gas or warning of a traffic jam
  • Location-based mobile advertising
Some of you may have followed our honeymoon journey last year as I used the Google's Latitude LBS on my Blackberry Curve to chronicle our road trip to Washington D.C. and Philadelphia. I also used it as a pseudo-turn by turn GPS unit when we were in the "big city".

As you can guess, some of these services can and will provide a whole new way of targeting personalized advertising, rewards or services to the end user if you follow the model out to the next logical step.

Just a game?

Both FourSquare and GoWalla started out with a level of social game play and quickly grew in popularity as users vied for the coveted badges and points for checking in. Then, businesses in the New York and San Francisco areas started noticing the usefulness of having regular customers check in and started offering physical rewards or freebies (ie. free beer, french fries, discounts) to the visitors that checked in the most (on FourSquare this is called being the Mayor). Now that FourSquare has been opened to the world, more businesses are jumping on the band wagon of the reward concept for FourSquare players.

The market share of smart phones in the U.S. is up to 17% as of January 2010, according to Forrester Research, and is predicted to be above 20% by the end of the year. Based on this growth, I predict LBS will become more interesting and useful to targeted marketing as more smart phones are purchased in the next few years and marketers and businesses look for new ad venues other than the traditional "old media" outlets. FourSquare is also getting a head start in the LBS race by already opening up their API to the public for open source ap development and there are already a few interesting aps on FourSquare's developer's page.

What are some new and innovative ways that LBS and FourSquare could be used to improve humanity, make us more efficient, have more fun? Hit me up with a comment!