Social media definitely has a place in the all-important communications media mix. But which social channel is the true game-changer? Here are a few reasons why brands should be seriously planning to invest in (and opt-in) local social gaming channels like Foursquare.
Imagine when “Specials Nearby” leads you not to a pint, but to an exclusive discount on that pair of shoes you’ve been craving – at the shoe store right around the corner.
What makes a channel like Foursquare so compelling?
1. It’s social. Obvious. But that means that this channel comes with a built-in network of people who like each other, and who, by the nature of their joining a location-based social network, are guaranteed to like sharing things with each other while they’re out and about.
2. It’s competitive. Unless you’ve been living in a cave (one that doesn’t have internet access, *shudder*), you’ve probably noticed that gaming incentives are the latest, “omg we should totally have some of those!” in the app development community. Remember back in the day when “zombies VS vampires” raged all over Facebook? Remember earlier today when your Facebook news feed was cluttered with “Inez is searching for something in Farmville” and “Joseph needs your help! Be a Hit Man in Mafia Wars,” both spawn of the fast-growing (see number 15) Zynga Game Network?
Gaming gets people engaged. It feels like something fun to do. It encourages us to one-up each other – thereby nudging interaction that might otherwise not happen. It pings us with small, joyful bursts of accomplishment that make us smile, laugh, and get excited. Read: It’s an emotional, interactive experience.
Foursquare has a unique edge in this competition space by building interaction and reward to be automatic – you get something for nothing, pretty much. If I’m going to a bar anyway, why not get some points? If I might get surprised with a deal or fun badge, why not? If I get ousted as Mayor of my favorite bar–I’m going to fight for it. Why not? Together, these are more powerful than they might seem. The low-barrier-to-entry “why not” factor + the emotionally charged, something-for-nothing incentive make it super easy to play—and super habit-forming.
3. It’s opt-in. If I accept a friend on Foursquare, it means I want to know where that friend is—and I want them to know where I am. These are the people I’d love to bump into when I’m out and about and feeling social. Imagine the potential when I can “friend” my favorite brands—not unlike the fan pages that have had incredible traction on Facebook. I’ve just opted in to hearing about what that brand is up to, when, why, and WHERE. Which brings me to the fourth and most important factor…
4. It’s location-based. This is the truly differentiating feature of a Foursquare over a Facebook. Sure, Facebook is with me everywhere—but it’s agnostic of exactly where I am. Foursquare knows, for example, where exactly I am and that I’m actively engaged when I check-in, so they can alert me to an exclusive Foursquare-user discount at my favorite shoe store when I’m just around the corner, nearby and likely to buy.
Social + competitive + opt-in + location-based = a seriously winning competition
And Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley is under no illusions that they’ve cornered the market on this recipe. Not only are close-in competitors like Gowalla, Loopt and Yelp already formidable opponents, but Facebook, Twitter and Google Buzz – or any social network, for that matter – can turn on geo-savvy check-in features at any time. As Crowley himself puts it, “check-ins will become a commodity.” These brands will no doubt have multiple showdowns over usability, audience capturing campaigns (such as Foursquare Day), partnerships that extend utility (for example, mobile purchasing apps like the Google Shopper), and which one has the infrastructure sophisticated enough to deliver on these demands.
All the more competitors in this space means that there’s all the more reason why brands should be salivating all over these services. People sharing, engaging, and discovering, all while they’re out and about near points of purchase? If that doesn’t get you excited… get back in that cave.
This post is the ninth in a series called That’s Debatable: Social Media Edition – posts designed around oft-debated topics in our community, meant to spark conversation and gather different perspectives. Learn more about That’s Debatable, and take our social media survey, and join the debate on brandchannel.