06/9/10

Business Buzz Podcast #1: Using Foursquare for Business

Our first Podcast about social media with Jodi Kiely is discussing two important perspectives about Foursquare: the viewpoint of the consumer and that of the business owner. For anyone who has questions about FourSquare, we hope our work will address your doubts about it and you will start seeing Foursquare in a new way.

Play Podcast

Cross-posted at Jodi Kiely Communications

Zac & Jodi recording the Podcast

[PODCAST SCRIPT]

JODI: Welcome to our audio discussion on social media and communications. My name is Jodi Katherine Kiely and I’m a freelance communications and public relations professional based out of Orlando, Florida.

ZAC: And I’m Zachary Long. Personally I’m a technology nerd but professionally I’m the Assistant Front Office Manager at the Orlando World Center Marriott where I set up our professional twitter account over two years ago and have recently begun using Foursquare for business for our hotel as well.

JODI: Zac and I have teamed up for this audio discussion after many emails, face-to-face meetings and hours of discussion about the use of social media applications in the business world with particular focus on the social media game foursquare.

Zac and I know a lot of people out there know what foursquare is, but we also realize there are many who are unfamiliar with it, so before we get into the meat of our conversation, we’ll just give a brief run-down of the game for any newbies out there listening.
ZAC: Foursquare, for those of you unfamiliar with it, is a social media game that allows users to “check in” to certain registered venues such as restaurants, stores and offices via their smart phones or online. As users check in to more and more venues, they accumulate virtual badges as a sort of reward. If someone checks into a place more times than any other foursquare user, they are crowned mayor of that venue. In most cases, the title is just for bragging rights, although more and more venues are offering benefits to their mayors – but we’ll get to that later.

JODI: Because foursquare is a social media game, it allows users to connect with other foursquare users as you compete for the most badges and mayorships. You can even be notified each time one of your friends checks into a place – a feature that is useful in the case that you are in the same area at the same time and want to meet up. So for example, if I were to visit, oh, let’s say the neighborhood Coldstone Creamery, I would start foursquare on my phone, find Coldstone’s listing which would pop up based on geolcation technology, and press the “check-in” button and then share my location and its address to my fellow foursquare users.

ZAC: So if you caught onto that, by simply checking in and announcing her visit to Coldstone to her foursquare friends, Jodi is also doing a little free advertising for the company. Let’s say one of her foursquare friends sees her message, is in the neighborhood and wants to connect. This could potentially translate into not one ice cream sale for Coldstone but two or more, depending on who is in the area when Jodi checks in.

JODI: If you’re still confused and have no idea what Zac and I are talking about at this point in the program, I encourage you to check out foursquare online at foursquare.com and to search for articles I have written about foursquare on my blog at JodiKiely.com, that’s J-O-D-I-K-I-E-L-Y (one word) dot com. Zac is also featured in one of my articles with great advice on using foursquare. This audio clip will always be around so feel free to come back to this after you have a better understanding about foursquare if you feel a bit lost.

Anyway, today Zac and I wanted to take our discussion about foursquare off paper and into your cars, homes, offices, iPods, speakers and headsets since we both have different views on the application, its uses and effectiveness.

While I need no convincing of the marketing power associated with foursquare, as a recreational user, I feel a bit disappointed in my foursquare experience. Zac, on the other hand, has benefited much more from foursquare having used it as a consumer in a greater capacity than I have and as a small business owner, which is what he is going to focus on today.

I’m going to let him take over right now in sharing his experiences using foursquare from a business standpoint, but stay tuned because I have some thoughts on the application from the standpoint of a consumer, along with some tips for any business users considering foursquare as a marketing tool.

So Zac, take it away!

ZAC: When foursquare finally launched here in Orlando back at the end of 2009, I set up a venue for the hotel immediately. At first it seemed like I was the only one who ever checked in there, I would look at the app or on the site and hope I would see someone else! As the months passed we began seeing more check-ins posted to twitter, and this is how we have truly been able to take advantage of foursquare. As part of our Social Media strategy at the hotel, we attempt to connect with guests over these new mediums and a check-in from foursquare that is posted to twitter gives us an immediate notification that someone is here at the hotel.

Now that foursquare has launched its new foursquare for business feature we were quick to sign up for that at the hotel as well. With this we have seen success in driving our internal scores through our first Special. We offer anyone that shows us our special screen on their phone 250 free Marriott Rewards points, no strings attached. This forces people to come to the Front Desk to get their reward, and thus gives our Front Desk clerks a reason to talk to the guest and thank them for being a Marriott Rewards member, which is a score we are rated on.

JODI: Like I said earlier, I myself need no convincing about the marketing potential foursquare offers users from a business standpoint, and I think Zac’s experience is just testimony as to how this can be an effective tool. But as a consumer, I’ve felt a bit disappointed about my foursquare stint, and I’m hoping my experience can serve as valuable customer intelligence for any businesses out there using foursquare or thinking about using foursquare. Having said that, I would certainly use my foursquare experience from a consumer standpoint when consulting any clients considering jumping into the game.

One thing I’d like to mention is that consumers have a bottom line too. Now those bottom lines can vary from having the ability to unlock as many badges as possible to becoming mayor of more venues than any of one’s friends. But for me, the game itself is not of importance.

My needs are simple: I want good tips on where to go, what to do, what to order and what to watch out for when checking into certain venues and, I want to save money and gain rewards beyond virtual badges that are of absolutely no value to me.

ZAC: So does that mean you don’t really care about your mayorship at Publix super market?

JODI: Not unless Publix starts giving me some love back for frequenting their store and publicizing it to my network, no, I could care less!

Now I realize foursquare is designed to meet these two needs through user reviews and the ever elusive foursquare deals some venues have been known to offer, but so far, my experience using foursquare has little to show for that.

This is probably a very localized issue – for example, foursquare users in New York City may be benefitting daily but here in Orlando, or at least parts of Orlando that I frequent, the city just hasn’t caught on to foursquare fever.

This is peculiar to note because I live in and frequent Orlando’s tourism area which is extremely service-oriented and just literally screams consumerism. You would think that out of all places in town, more people would be checking in and leaving tips about their experiences and that more places would be offering foursquare deals – but I just haven’t seen much of either yet. Once ina while I’ll hit a spot that generates a lot of tips, but sometimes there will be none at all, and it surprises me. Maybe I need to get out more, I don’t know!

But I guess my point is this: It’s one thing to be on foursquare as a business and reap all the marketing benefits, but it’s another to actually offer something of value to your customers who do use this application on a daily basis.

For example, if I’m walking through Pointe Orlando and pass by all these lovely restaurants, I’m not likely to go into any of these if there are no user reviews saying how great these places are. Likewise, if I pass a restaurant I haven’t been to before, unless I’m on a mission to eat and try something new, I’m probably going to just keep on walking – however – if you offer a free drink to any foursquare user (not just mayors by the way) who shows their foursquare check-in at the bar, I may not only come into your establishment to claim my free drink, but I’d probably bring a friend with me and we’d probably order some appetizers and make it a happy hour!

ZAC: I definitely agree and part of the problem is there is no widespread adoption of foursquare just yet. It took about 3 years for Twitter to really take off to the point it is now, that I see ads on CNN telling me to follow people. The other issue is that Foursquare uses by nature need to be using a Smart Phone, and tend to be the early adopters and more tech savvy to begin with. Jodi, maybe you just don’t live where all the cool kids are or just that tourists may not be in that demographic.

When we traveled to Washington DC and even Atlanta, larger cities than Orlando of course, we did notice a lot more usage of foursquare with users leaving tips and businesses offering specials. Walking down a street and pulling up the application in Midtown Atlanta for example, I had some tips for what taco to try at Tin Lizzy’s and a special from the place next door for free drinks for the mayor of Front Page News.

Walking around other populous areas like in DC, people are offering specials not just for mayors which would definitely drive repeat business. Bars or restaurants that offer discounts for 2nd or 3rd visits are a measureable way for businesses to drive repeat traffic while appealing to that demographic of smart phone users.

JODI: So would you have stopped by that establishment had they not offered a foursquare deal?

ZAC: Well obviously a foursquare deal alone wouldn’t change my mind if the place looked shady, but if I’m in an area and I get a “Trending Now” notification that multiple users are all checking into the same location I might want to at least peek in and see what is going on. The crowd mentality at work again! A foursquare special would influence me to check something out though, again because the whole system is relatively new so anyone using foursquare as a business has to be pretty cutting edge and in the know.

JODI: So yes, that would be a good example of a business effectively using foursquare to reach out to new or current customers. I love that!

Now, maybe I am doing something wrong on my end, but hear me out because I have a very good reason for my online behavior.

It has been suggested that because I don’t tweet my foursquare location on Twitter, I’m missing out on potential deals because businesses to track the mentions of their establishments on Twitter by foursquare users. But here’s my little problem with tweeting foursquare stuff on Twitter:

1)      I just consider such tweets spam. My Twitter followers don’t care, and I do have an online reputation I’d like to keep – that being that unless I’m at some place really cool, you’ll never see me tweet my foursquare location or activity on my Twitter stream. That’s just me and my idea of quality content.  Obviously not everyone agrees because I see people tweeting their foursquare stuff online all the time – and yes, it annoys me because frankly, I don’t care – but hey, maybe it’s just me, I don’t know. (that’s because you only check-in to Publix!) J

2)      I don’t necessarily want the whole world to know where I am at any given time. I just don’t like that. I don’t mind sharing it with those in my foursquare network – that’s one thing – but everyone else in Twitterville? I’m still not comfortable with that idea.

So I’m not sure if this is keeping me from really benefitting from foursquare or not, or if it’s just the nature of where I live, but there have been many times when I’ve considered quitting foursquare. The time it takes to check in and stuff, you know, I want to feel I’m getting something out of it, too. It just hasn’t happened yet – at least not here in the heart of Orlando’s tourism center which surprises me.

And I do want to add, that I do share, too. I feel I’m doing my part by leaving tips for other users and while some people share tips, I don’t find any as often as I’d like to.

I’m not sure yet if foursquare is worth it for me. I can see how it may be, how it could be, but right now, I’m still not sold on its relevance – as a consumer, that is.

ZAC: Privacy issues will always be a concern and one of the barriers to entry for something like foursquare to really take off and have a mass effect. As we saw with Facebook a short while ago, privacy is a real concern for users, and Facebook had to go back and switch its privacy controls to make them more user friendly and easier to not share everything with the world.

I see Foursquare continuing to develop as small groups of trusted friends, like facebook, not wide open and public like Twitter. Even with this model they can still be successful and relevant to everyone, as you mentioned about Tips, these are public and go towards creating a better ecosystem of user-generated content. The other issue is along the lines of what you are dealing with right now, in smaller cities or within groups of friends where not a lot of other users are on foursquare – what’s in it for you? The time investment to remember to check-in to a location just adds to that “one more thing to do” on your social media platter. However, as larger companies begin to get into the game – think the Starbucks Frappuccino promotion – I think the popularity and public acceptance will rise. Once users understand what to do or not to do, think PleaseRobMe.com, foursquare will become like Facebook when you ask someone “what do you mean you’re not on facebook yet?”

JODI: Anyway, we’ll see. I’ll keep using it for some time and oh – just a warning to anyone who listens to this – don’t take offense but if I don’t know you, I’m not accepting your foursquare friend request. It’s just my own personal decision and again, I’m not sure if it’s a decision affecting my less than impressive experience with foursquare or not, but it’s a decision I’m standing by for now at least.

What about you, Zac? Are you accepting friend requests from strangers?

ZAC: Nope, no strangers. I treat my foursquare friend list even more strict than my Facebook friend list where I do accept all requests. Knowing where someone I have no vested interest in is checking in has no benefit to me by being my friend. I will still see their tips and to-do’s that they leave around town, and if I’m checking into a venue I will still see them present there.

JODI: Ok, so as we tie things up, I think some valuable points were made in this discussion. One being that foursquare, if used properly, can be a tremendous marketing and customer service tool for companies and two, if no one is using it to share, then, well, it’s useless unless you’re only in it for the badges and mayorships.

ZAC: That’s why it’s up to users like us, the early adopters, to be the evangelists for foursquare! From a business perspective I have definitely seen the number of unique check-ins steadily rise at the hotel. The momentum is there and with corporations and advertisers starting to get into the game as well, this will only increase. As a business owner I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to at least try it out. One of the great things about Social Media is the low cost of entry, and unlike a Facebook Fan Page or Twitter Account, once your foursquare venue is setup you don’t really have to do much else. Of course launching a special would require the analytics necessary for any ad campaign to see if it is working.

JODI: So that wraps up today’s audio discussion on social media, communications – and today’s topic of foursquare. Thanks for joining us!

And nce again, feel free to visit my blog at JodiKiely.com or follow me on Twitter at @Jodi underscore Kiely (that’s J-O-D-I as in “igloo”, underscore K-I-E-L-Y as in “yo-yo”

ZAC: Follow me on twitter as @zacharylong and follow the hotel as @thefrontdesk.

JODI: And as we close, I just want to give a special thanks to our technical specialist who oversaw the technical recording aspects of putting this audio show together. A huge thanks to Betty Feng who also has a blog at GSC Motion dot wordpress dot com and who is on twitter at BettyFeng (that’s F-E-N-G), BettyFeng (one word). Betty has also shared her thoughts on foursquare with me on my blog and I encourage you to search for the article in my archives and read what she has to say on the topic, too.

So thanks again for tuning! We hope you got a lot from our discussion and please feel free to leave a comment on my blog as this is a topic that holds potential for much discussion!

Take care and thanks again!

ZAC: Thanks and bye!