Posted by Sam Crocker
Hi there folks!
Today we are going to take a look into Foursquare and, more specifically, we’re going to check out how to use it for events and conferences and uncover some of the answers to the questions that aren’t as easily avilable through the Foursquare site.
Quick Background on Foursquare
So, we’re not going to waste too much time on an introduction to Foursquare, because hopefully you’ve already been focussing on ways to incorporate this into your marketing plan. The implications for any business with a storefront or actual address are fairly straightforward, though the implications for online brands are a bit more difficult to tap into.
It’s Not just for Stalking! (Image via: Geek and Poke)
I had originally prepared a post dedicated to Foursquare and its impact on local and small businesses, however it seems SEO Doctor was one step ahead of me and produced this impressive guide before I was able to get my post out of the drafts folder here on SEOmoz. His post is extremely comprehensive though, so be sure to check it out!
I’ve been hearing loads of people talking about how “they don’t get it” in reference to Foursquare and it’s worth pointing out how many people were having trouble understanding Twitter as well. I would definitely recommend familiarising yourself with Foursquare now – especially if you work with any local companies.
The growth of Foursquare, Gowalla & Facebook Places has been extremely convincing, and the limited number of people making use of the “Specials” available by claiming your local business (for FREE) with Foursquare seems like an obvious missed opportunity – ignore Location-Based social media at your own peril.
Using Foursquare for Conferences and Events
At any rate, as you know, Distilled and SEOmoz have been busy over the last several months preparing for the #mozniar and the PRO seminar in London ( for which I would be remiss not to quickly let you know that tickets are still avaialble). In this preparation we have been looking heavily into ways to spice up the event.
Given my mild obsession with all ways to earn seemingly meaningless points and my new found hobby of Foursquare Roulette (jump off a tube station and randomly try whatever looks entertaining in the area) I proposed we look into Foursquare and what sort of things we might be able to do with it for the conference.
If any of you are as nerdy as I am, then I’m sure you will have noticed how some of the biggest brands as well as some of the largest events in the tech and music industries have been able to get their own Badges you can unlock by checking-in at various locations.
Screen Cap from Tony Felice
The first thing you’ll notice is that these are not small affairs and there are potentially obvious reasons why these clients were potentially able to strike a deal to get a badge. You might also notice – if you’ve looked into this previously – that it can be fairly difficult to find any information about how these deals are struck, and it can be equally difficult to get in touch with the folks at Foursquare about striking up a deal.
Getting to the Source – An Interview with Eric F.
After enough prodding and digging through my own social networks for any potential “in” I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to get in touch with Eric, who happens to be the Director of Client Services – and was incredibly helpful and happy to speak to us.
Rather than be selfish with the responses I thought I would provide some of the answers he provided to my most burning questions about it all. Here are the responses I was able to dig up, I’ll include a brief recap of the implications afterwards:
What would be your top tip(s) for making the most of Foursquare for conferences and Events?
EF: Setting up goals ahead of time is the best way to plan for a conference. You may have a single-day event and encourage people to check-in early, or you may have an event spread out over a few days or weeks and have people check-in early, in the middle, and at the end. We look at foursquare as a flexible platform, depending on event planners’ needs. Some folks have found success with contests or tips to visit different booths. Others use foursquare as a way for attendees to connect and to see who else is at their event.
One recent conference used foursquare to show which events had the most people attendants, and then gave the speakers a chance to connect to their audience via Twitter after the fact.
There is a very robust API available as well that give event organizers the ability to show live check-ins and other interesting data about the event in real time.
In the past we’ve have seen badges from events and conferences (e.g. CES, Bonnaroo, SXSW, etc.) in the past- how does that work? Is that a service that people pay for? Is there generally a threshold about how “big” or “cool” an event is? Or is it more just about getting in touch?
EF: We’re still in the early days of this, and have been testing different approaches around partner and event-related badges. Sometimes, we choose a venue because of a cool use of the platform; other times, it’s to reach a new audience
In the future we hope to roll out a more structured plan for event planners and conferences – but for now we are inspired by the ideas and implementations we have seen from these events.
Is this a market Foursquare has considered? There seem to be loads of conferences and events and it seems like partnerships (with badges and such) could be a real opportunity.
EF: We are concentrating on the best user experience possible. If this comes at events and conferences, we are doing our job right.
What things can/should any event organiser do with Foursquare in the short-term? Obviously there is more to be done for a massive festival or conference, but what about one-off events or smaller time affairs?
EF: We look at our loyalty offers (in the form of special offers and mayor offers) as a big win for anyone with a physical location. These reward people that go somewhere for the first time, or are loyal customers. This also lets merchants track success with redemptions and foot traffic.
We know that business accounts are free, but how do your partnerships work with larger brands? Is there a general price range on these? How much does it cost for a brand to get their own badge? What if they want more than one?
EF: All business partnerships with foursquare are totally free. This includes someone with a single location such as a bar or restaurant, to a national retailer with 10,000 locations. To be 100% clear, we offer the ability to see analytics, run specials, and interact with new and loyal customers totally right now.
Badge programs have either a monthly cost associated with them that is directly tied to promotional consideration and reach, as well as the longevity of the campaign.
Who should large brands try to get in touch with if they want to team up with Foursquare?
EF: We have a dedicated support area for businesses: http://support.foursquare.com/forums/177952-foursquare-for-business
This ensures that the proper person will be able to answer the proper question whether it comes in from a local merchant, large chain, agency representing a brand, event question, or anything else that may arise.
What about smaller brands?
EF: Same as above – funneling requests through one system ensure that someone on the team gets back to people quickly, correctly, and promptly.
Finally, any previews/things in the works for business/marketing uses of Foursquare you’re willing to share?
EF: Knowing where events are happening, or where people are gathered, is a great metric of discovery. We’re all about letting folks know when something is happening, and most importantly where it is happening. We are looking at ways to empower users and businesses by giving them this knowledge at their fingertips.
Making Sense of it All
No surprise that the Foursquare team are keeping some of their cards fairly close to their chests, but there’s definitely some key takeaways from this.
1. You don’t have to be a global brand to get the hook-up. It seems pretty clear that any creative uses of the API are a definite way to grab attention from the folks at Foursquare, and is potentially a clever way to get your own badge.
2. There is no doubt that Foursquare and other location-based social media platforms are growing and now is the time to make sure that if you work with any local businesses: get on the ball, get your venue registered, and go to town. I would not be the least bit surprised if in some fashion or another this sort of data (rankings, tips, check-ins, etc) becomes quite valuable to the team over at Google when it comes to looking at local ranking factors.
3. If you decide to make location-based social networking part of your plan – let people know! There’s no sense building the most incredible API to date to be used at your event, venue, etc. and not letting people know about it.
4. Even if you can’t get your event/conference its own badge there is still plenty you can do to engage Foursquare users.
Examples for Short Conferences
- Be sure to set up your venue(s) as locations
- Create multiple venues for the same location (e.g. “Conference Room 1″ “Bar” “Exhibition Hall” etc)
- Rewards for check-ins (forget about Mayor’s – focus on the short term)
- Make use of Existing Apps. Check out ScreenScape, LocaModa, 2Know and if you’re in London tell people to try out FourTap
- Create a new App
- Encourage early check-ins and sharing via Twitter
- Splash some cash and get your event a badge
Examples for Longer Conferences
- As above
- Have incentives for multiple check-ins
- Encourage check-ins from multiple venues
- Offer a prize for the mayor of the conference
Where exactly we end up along the spectrum of “things you can do” for London PRO for this year is still a work in progress, but you can bet I’ll be championing for meaningless points and our own spin on the thing – and you can be sure we’ll let you know what we come up with.
A very big thank you to Eric F. and the Foursquare team for taking the time to answer our questions!
Please let us know your thoughts below and any successes/hiccups you all have had using location-based social networking in the comments section below.
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