Unlike other more mainstream social networks, the business potential of Foursquare () may not be immediately apparent. At present, the location-based network is less about conversations and resource sharing, and more about tying your social activities to physical places.
For brick-and-mortar businesses, a Foursquare strategy makes a lot of sense. But what about brand promotion in general, say in the entertainment or publishing worlds? With Foursquare, it’s not about linking users back to your site or products, but creating a new location-based product that has value for fans and followers. Here’s how five big brands are attempting to connect location to their online social presences.
1. Recommendations with Personality: Bravo
In the television industry, Bravo was one of the first networks to get on board with Foursquare, and 50,000 of its fans have followed so far. The network’s programming is a mix of food, fashion, and reality drama, and the TV personalities and hosts that viewers love are the ones making recommendations on Foursquare.
Restaurant, shopping, and hotel suggestions reinforce Bravo’s image as a network of culture experts, and the personalities who leave tips through the brand add that bit of personal flavor or sass that draws viewers to the shows in the first place. Fans don’t follow for Bravo per se; they’re following to see where Top Chefs and Millionaire Matchmakers spend their time in New York and LA.
2. Restaurant Reviews: Zagat
If there was ever a brand made for Foursquare, Zagat is it. The 30+ year-old publication is the go-to guide for restaurant and hotel reviews, and their embrace of numerous social media channels is noteworthy.
Zagat uses Foursquare the way many individual users do — by leaving food-related tips about locations. And Zagat is not city-specific. You’ll find foodie tips from Los Angeles, to New York, to Cambridge, MA.
Zagat’s Foursquare account is an obvious way to reinforce everything the brand is known for, and perhaps tap into a new demographic of diners who may be reluctant to carry around a paperback guide in addition to their smartphones.
While we may not yet live in a world where celebrities want fans to know their locations in real-time, filtering their favorite places through an over-arching brand is a good start.
Fans can keep tabs on the favorite haunts of stars from Jersey Shore and The Hills, driving the social connection to these personalities beyond the TV and into The Real World (pun intended).
Not only can users see where the stars have been, but what they did, enjoyed, and recommend. And there’s always the possibility that visiting a bar frequented by a celeb increases your chances of meeting him or her. That aspect is certainly part of MTV’s Foursquare appeal.
4. Urban Exploration: New York Magazine
New York Magazine uses Foursquare to drive home its coverage of city-specific culture. This account is about much more than just food. It targets the social New Yorker with tips on retail stores, bars, and public spaces.
The tips not only offer details on pricing and goings-on, but provide links back to the magazine’s website for deeper coverage. In this regard, New York Magazines’ approach to Foursquare is akin to the Twitter () strategy of many publishers, with the added value of location.
5. Edutainment: The History Channel
Staff at The History Channel know what their viewers are into — it’s fairly obvious, given the namesake. So while Foursquare doesn’t offer much in terms of driving traffic to a program or website, locations are fostering an interesting kind of brand engagement here.
The account leaves tips at various sites, including interesting historical background on the locations. It’s trivia, but with a real-world and educational context. For instance, did you know that the Wabasha Street Caves in St. Paul, MN are man-made sandstone mines that date back to the 1840s, and were opened as a restaurant and night club in the 1920s?
This is a clever use of indirect marketing. The History Channel doesn’t have to promote its shows or link back to content to remind fans why they enjoy the programming. More than 47,000 followers are already enjoying the historical tips left by the account, since its launch in April.
The trouble with emerging networks like Foursquare is that users and big brands alike are having difficulty sticking with it. In all of the examples above, you can see that brand representatives jumped into the checkin game with vigor early on, but eventually updated the accounts less and less — some have not added tips for months.
For now, location services are still an ancillary part of many social media strategies, but they won’t be forever. Many predict that when cultural acceptance, mainstream social integration, and business value finally coincide, location sharing will be as common and natural as updating your Facebook () status.
When it happens, will your brand be ready?