August 9, 2012

Foursquare Evolves Beyond the Check-In

When you are married with three kids a date night becomes a luxury for which you seldom have time. I, therefore, always take advantage of opportunities when they are presented, like last weekend.  Given its rave reviews, we decided to see “The Dark Knight Rises.” When we got to the theater, I pulled out my iPhone and checked-in using Foursquare, as I always do. Fast forward – the movie was excellent and I highly recommend it. As we exited the theatre, I pulled out my phone again to check out nearby places to eat, once again turning to Foursquare.  This time, however, as I opened the explore tab, I was greeted by something new.

A local restaurant, just two blocks away, apparently discovered that I was in the area and let me know that two of my friends had eaten there recently and liked it. In addition, they notified me of a current special they were running.  This combination of social recommendations and an offer were enough to get us in the door, allowing us to have an excellent meal after our excellent movie.

Welcome to the world of Foursquare and its local updates and promoted updates.

Since its launch three years ago, Foursquare now has more than 20 million active monthly users, 1 million verified merchants and over 2 billion check-ins.  Foursquare has amassed a bank of consumer data that has few rivals. For years merchants have had access to that wealth of information including granular data such as male/female demographic breakdown, frequent customers, time since check-in, etc., but have had no viable avenue for utilizing it with the exception of large, blanket promotions.

Foursquare is changing that and giving merchants two new extremely powerful tools.  On July 18, Foursquare announced Local Updates which allowed business to contact their customers directly, offering deals and incentives to those who have expressed interest in the business through check-ins or other comments.  A week later, the company announced Promoted Updates, which allows businesses to push out recommendations to potential customers that are essentially advertisements to a mobile consumer base.

Foursquare is positioning this as a Google search-type tool.  When conducting a “regular” search a person inputs a query, showing their intent, which is replied to with relevant search results.  In similar fashion, a Foursquare user is expressing intent by opening the app and going to the “Explore” tab to find information relevant to what is around them.  This is a large step forward in contextual marketing that uses social data to customize communications to consumers.

Both of these update tools show that Foursquare is serious about monetizing its platform and is very well positioned to do so.  Brands and consumers can expect to see further moves from the app-centered around consumer targeting.

The age of hyper-local consumer targeting is here and Foursquare is among the leaders of the pack in providing customized communications options for businesses.

Here are a few things brands, especially national retailers with large local footprints, should consider:

  • Customizing communications to consumers on this level will drive foot traffic to local stores
  • Offering specials and discounts through Foursquare limits losses that can be experienced through “normal” couponing/discounting sites
  • Engaging on the Foursquare platform opens door to a wealth of social data surrounding brands and their locations

Foursquare has shown that it is a viable platform for reaching consumers and engaging them on a local level.  National brands need to enter into that field through localized, contextual offers and communications or risk losing consumers to the businesses that do.

Categories: Mobile social media

January 31, 2012

New Research from GMS Local Shows Knowledge Gap

It’s no news that the local online space is fragmented and can be difficult to navigate, especially for those large, national brands that have an extensive local footprint.  Determining best strategies, tactics and practices across the local ecosystem can be a challenge for any national marketer.

GMS Local has launched new research today exploring not only the state of local advertising, but the perception that national brands with more than 500 brick and mortar locations have of the space.  The research reveals, perhaps not surprisingly, that many brands have a skewed perception of the understanding of the local space and what they are doing within it.  According to the study, there is an education gap in the local arena that needs to be filled in order for advertisers to become truly effective in the local marketplace.

The research also offers a three step action plan for any national advertiser with a local presence, including:

  • An online local listings business audit
  • A local storefront diagnosis
  • Education, innovation and experimentation

The full research can be found on the Insights page of  The research can be shared and also imbedded on your site.  Contact GMS Local for more information.


January 5, 2012

Looking Around the Social Media Blind Spot

by Steve Sherfy, Local Search Manager

Social media has gone from start-up to saturation in an incredibly short amount of time.  Facebook has become a household name, in just six months, Google+ has accumulated more than 62 million users worldwide and there are hundreds of additional local directories, review sites and check-in services adding millions of members and mentions to the local/social mix.  Sites like FourSquare, Yelp and Facebook have enhanced the local/social mix by allowing local users to notify friends of their location and leave comments about their experiences at these places.  The local/social universe is constantly expanding with location-specific data, increasing the propensity for brands to miss essential pieces of the conversation, thus creating a social blind-spot with each location.

It’s important for multi-location brands to realize that each location has between six and 15 distinct social sites collecting and sharing information about that location.  This information is read and acted upon by local consumers; ignoring or “under-monitoring” this information can be detrimental to a location’s profitability.

Social monitoring is key; however, a study released by VenueLabs indicates most social monitoring platforms may be missing as much as 82 percent of online content about a brand, leaving brands with a huge blind spot regarding their local sentiment.  This blind spot is created due to the very nature of many social listing tools; therefore, making “social listening” more important today than ever before.

The largest and most popular social listening services today operate in a similar fashion by:

  • Creating a set of specific keywords, typically around brand or product terms.
  • Monitoring a specific set of popular sites, sifting through the social commentary for a mention of a keyword in the specific set.
  • Capturing the conversation in which the keyword is used.

Imagine this: a consumer checks in at a local fast food franchise location.  During this check-in they remark that the service is poor, or the food is terrible and go on further to say no one should visit this location.  In this post, they make no mention of brand name or product name.  A post such as this would not be picked up by a keyword monitoring service.  The VenueLabs study showcases many examples of such content missed by keyword monitoring across several major brands.

While there is a need for a keyword driven, top-down approach to social media monitoring, data shows an equal, if not greater, need for a location-based social monitoring approach.  If a brand is missing potentially 80 percent or greater of the social comments available, they are at a severe disadvantage and are likely missing opportunities to engage their customers on a local, personal level.

Multi-national brands, ultimately, should be asking the following and then developing a plan to address each:

  • What is being said at the digital storefronts of all my locations?
  • Are the tools I’m using providing me 100 percent insight into the content of my digital “comment box?”
  • Can I effectively monitor, track, trend and report on the digital comments across thousands of locations?
  • How can my social, brand strategy be maintained across all digital initiatives in a fragmented online space across all locations?

Brands that research, identify and implement the proper answers to these questions will be well ahead of the curve for harnessing the power of the local-social commentary and, in turn, eliminating any blind-spots that might be sabotaging their local/social efforts.

Categories: social media