Jen van der Meer

Entrepreneurs: Have You Foursquared Lately?

Published: (Updated: ) in Inhabitat, Open Forum, by .

The post that made me realize that green business was not what Open Forum’s readers were seeking. My most popular Open Forum story, ever:

Mayor of Foursquare
Mayor of Foursquare

Foursquare is open for business at the right price for mom and pop and larger businesses that want the benefit from a highly localized social network.  For those that haven’t heard of Foursquare, the company describes itself as “50% friend-finder, 30% social cityguide, 20% nightlife game.” The mobile-based social network is currently available on the iPhone and Android handsets, and is known for bestowing badges on people who discover new restaurants, travel to new cities, and frequent their favorite bar or coffee shop.

I had the opportunity to sit down for coffee with Tristan Walker, a man who wears two hats: a full time Stanford MBA student and Foursquare’s business development representative. Tristan has been busy meeting with brands eager to experiment in the fast growth social network, because of Foursquare’s proximity to the action. Foursquare has the opportunity to link virtual social experimenting to real world online “behavior change,” in Walker’s view, such as redeeming an offer or coupon at a local venue, tracking a loyalty system at a retailer, or associating a brand with the overall experience.

At 160,000 total users in several cities, the social network launched at less than two years ago is about to experience explosive growth as it plans for near term upcoming releases. In the coming weeks and months, expect Foursquare to become available on handsets like the Blackberry, synchronize updates on Facebook (not just Twitter), and prepare for moving beyond a fixed city-based experience and launching “everywhere, including Antarctica if you want to,” according to Walker.

So if you have a business with a real world call-to-action, how do you engage with Foursquare? Walker suggests three ways based on the size of the business you are in. Large brands are looking to creating innovative engagement marketing ideas pay an overall fee to Foursquare for programs like the current cause marketing initiative with Pepsi, donating $0.04 to Camp Interactive for each “check in” in exchange for a branded presence on the system. At the mid-level, retailers can suggest smart ways to “drive to retail” either through a loyalty system integration (Foursquare has an open API or Application Program Interface for developers).

The mom and pop opportunity is where smaller scale entrepreneurs should seek out Foursquare as a place to reach the digital influencer crowd that is obsessed with the social network.

Foursquare sees these local venue offers as a value-add for their user base, and restaurants and stores are offering rewards based on the core experience, such as free coffee for each newly crowned mayor, or free WIFI for anyone who checks in. Adding these offers is currently free of charge to local venues for the time being, so learn more about Foursquare and add your venue now, before the big brands find out about this emerging network.