I started playing around with Foursquare (http://foursquare.com) today. It's the latest in a line of social networking applications that I've toyed with. If you know me, you know I love Facebook and Twitter for their business applications. But this one's pretty different. For details, see their website, but here's a quick overview.
The core functionality of Foursquare allows you to "check in" (all quoted terms indicate Foursquare jargon) at various "venues" (which you can add if none exists) all around the world. As you check in, you earn points (which don't lead to tangible rewards at this point) and badges as recognition for your travels. At each venue, you can add a public note indicating either something "to do" or some sort of "tip." If you're the lucky person who has visited a venue more than anyone else, then Foursquare declares you to be the mayor of that venue. Within Foursquare, you can also generate lists of friends, similar to those on Facebook.
So, what's in it for you as a business owner? On their website, Foursquare provides you the opportunity to list "Mayor Specials," deals you might give to your most loyal customers, inclduing your "mayor." They also provide other suggestions such as a free drink to every 10th person. Foursquare provides a new way to gauge customer loyalty as indicated by the number of times they check in to your venue.
It also provides a way to assess who is checking in at your venue. I added my office building as a venue (see http://foursquare.com/venue/2471432). If you find that venue online, you will see all who have visited it, the number of unique visitors, etc. (A better example might be the Statue of Liberty; see http://foursquare.com/venue/19273.) As an owner you can get to know your customers in this way. Keep in mind, of course, the demographics of who might be using Foursquare and whether or not it's consistent with your overall demographics. It may not be the best tool for true market research.
An owner might also have a lot to learn from the "tips" or "to dos" left on Foursquare. Some might provide insights into how to serve the customer better. Because it's so early, it won't take a lot of time to catch up on comments and respond to them.
With some ingenuity, Foursquare might allow a group of cheese makers to offer artisan cheese tours and to provide a reward for all who have checked in at the participating stops. The same concept could apply to other types of farm or food markets. Like every other type of social networking tool, the true power lies in the applications generated by its users.
Your Chance to Respond
What do you see as the business benefits of Foursquare?
How might businesses use this tool to connect with customers?
I found a couple interesting blog posts...