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Foursquare: The Intersection of Mobile, Social and Local

Foursquare is one of those networks that many of us just don’t get. What’s the point of checking in everywhere you go or competing with your buddies to be the mayor of your neighborhood Starbucks?

Despite the skepticism that many of us share, Foursquare is an interesting case study because it sits at the intersection of three of the biggest technology trends: mobile, social and local. This post will describe the significance of Foursquare as a tool for local business and personal branding.

Check out the (billions of) check-ins

foursquare mobile social localFoursquare, the New York-based social network, is the epitome of geotargeted marketing. It allows us to show our affinity for our favorite businesses and brands, while giving businesses new ways to appealing to locals through events, specials and updates.

With around 40 million users, Foursquare isn’t nearly the size of networks like Twitter or LinkedIn. However, those who use it tend to use it a ton. There have been more than 4.5 billion check-ins to date, with millions more check-ins each day.

Foursquare has some 40,000 “super-users” located in 147 countries who help make edits to Foursquare’s global database. At the local level, whoever checks in the most at any business on the Foursquare network is known as “the mayor.” Competition for a mayorship can become intense at locations frequented by many people (for instance, a Costco, Starbucks or fitness center).

Foursquare integrates with other social networks like Twitter, for example, allowing you to share your location on the other network when you check in somewhere. Businesses are taking notice of check-in tweets. Here is a Twitter reply that I received within minutes of checking in at a local Pizza Hut:


Businesses like Pizza Hut realize that I'm not just having dinner there, but I’m willing to share it with my friends. That’s valuable social word of mouth that they’re attempting to encourage with a prompt reply.

In tweeting my Foursquare location, I’m using my iPhone to engage in two social networks at a local level. Again, this is the intersection of mobile, social and local. Restaurants and retailers are taking notice. Some restaurants will acknowledge those who regularly check in by following them on Twitter. (I got teased in the office when Red Robin followed me.)


Both Microsoft and American Express have reportedly been interested in taking an equity stake in Foursquare, according to Bloomberg. One recent development that’s sparked interest from the big boys is the testing of new version that automatically makes dining suggestions based on a user’s location. (Up to this point, you need to go through a discovery process to find what’s around you.)

While Foursquare has growing revenues, it's never turned a profit. So what does the future hold? After four years, you could argue that the network is well positioned to capitalize on the massive global adoption of smartphones, our love of sharing information on the go and the desires of local businesses to capture our attention at times when we’re in the vicinity and more likely to be receptive to an offer.

So what do you think of Foursquare? Is it well positioned to reap a Microsoft or Amex acquisition, or is it an overrated network that’s losing money and paltry in terms of mass adoption? We’d love to hear your thoughts, especially if you're not a fan.


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