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Online Buzz: Foursquare: friend or foe?

You may not have heard of it, but according to many, Foursquare is the next big thing in social media. If you haven't started exploring your neighbourhood with this iPhone application (also known as 'app') yet maybe you should give it a try.

According to the developers, "Foursquare is a cross between a friend-finder, a social city-guide and a game that rewards you for doing interesting things."

As a consumer, you have to download the Foursquare application onto your smartphone and, when you arrive at a park, bar, museum, restaurant or really anywhere, you have to 'check-in' to the location using the application. Once you have checked in your Foursquare (and Twitter if you choose that option), friends will know where you are. Foursquare will also award you points and 'badges' depending on where and how many times you have checked in different locations. For example, if you have been to one place more than anyone else you will be crowned 'Mayor' of that location.

This is where the business application of Foursquare comes into play. One way for businesses to get involved is to offer 'Mayor specials' - for example a free coffee or a special discount to the 'Mayor' of your business. Specials can also be awarded when people 'check-in' to businesses for the first time or a specific number of times. Businesses can even offer 'wildcard specials' - for example the 10th person to 'check-in' on a certain day gets a free coffee. It is a great social media tool to build customer loyalty.

Foursquare also provides businesses with ways to promote their in-store specials as well as real-time statistics on Foursquare visitors in your venue, giving you an idea of the success of the app for your business.

Foursquare users also have the ability to create 'tips' and 'to-do lists' for places. Users can leave 'tips' on locations that other people can view when they check into that location. For example, people may leave a 'tip' noting their favourite dish at that particular restaurant. Users can create 'to-do' lists reminding them what bars for example they want to visit or what item on a restaurant's menu they want to try next time.

Like with any other social media tool, the question of privacy of information for consumers is being debated. However, the application for businesses is certainly worth looking at as there are many success stories particularly in the United States.

It will be interesting to follow the success of Foursquare to see whether it takes off or not keeping in mind these privacy concerns.

By Petra Aitken | @petra_aitken

For more information on developing a Foursquare strategy for your business, contact us.