Pioneer brands learn to engage through Foursquare

More companies are looking at how Foursquare can benefit their marketing strategies.

As Foursquare continues to burgeon as a key player in social media, more companies are looking at how it can be beneficial to their marketing strategies.

Brick-and-mortar retailers such as Walgreens, which has just under 70,000 Foursquare followers, have an easier time making a location-based platform work for them. “Location is a major part of our social strategy,” states Adam Kmiec, director of social media at the drugstore retailer. “Foursquare has been a great partner in helping us deliver on that aspect.”

Walgreens, along with other retail businesses, is able to provide tips, alerts and specials between check-in and check-out at each local business.

Other types of company may have to be more creative and willing to experiment. Two years ago, Intel's CEO was the keynote speaker at the CES consumer electronics trade show in Las Vegas. The tech giant approached Foursquare and asked for special badges to reward those who checked in at Intel's booth or the keynote speech.

“We were one of the first companies to do that. Foursquare didn't even know what to charge us,” says Bryan Rhoads, Intel's senior digital marketing strategist. At this January's CES, Intel created a notice that appeared to those who checked in, encouraging them to not only visit the Intel booth, but also check out other booths Intel found cool. It also partnered with JESS3, a creative interactive agency based in Washington, DC, to create a real-time heat map of the floor, showing when and in what booths every check-in—including Gowalla and Facebook Places—occurred.

Intel now has 42,000 followers on Foursquare alone. That type of enviable connection between business and consumer “comes from understanding our audience and matching their participation behavior,” says Kmiec.

According to Dave Wolf, VP of global business and market development at American Express, the credit card company decided to dive into social media because “Amex is focused on going where our card members are.”

It linked up with Foursquare and allowed consumers to link their Amex cards with their Foursquare accounts. Special check-ins earn discounts, which essentially amounts to “embedding a coupon in your card,” touts Wolf, something he says had never been done before. The number of American Express followers on Foursquare is now just under 40,000.

Perhaps the most important aspect of utilizing Foursquare into a social media strategy is to make the experience easy and organic. “In digital, and especially mobile, user simplicity and non-clunkiness are key,” says Wolf.

Amex competitor Visa isn't using Foursquare but has set up its own check-in scheme for retailers and merchants to sign up to.

At this summer's Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival in San Francisco, Intel wanted to make its booth a place where people could check in to let their friends know.

The booth included face-painting, henna, and free giveaways. “By the third day, we saw people downloading the application so they would be able to check in,” says Mike Fard, Intel's global messaging strategist. “It just made sense for them to want to check in and be a part of that whole experience.”

Organic experiences such as this are creating location-based environments that engage users on Foursquare and make them feel well disposed towards the brands concerned.

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