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Hip to Be (Four)Square

March 11, 2010

Yes, that is a reference to the Huey Lewis and the News song “Hip to Be Square” (What can I say? I’m a child of the 80s). But I’m not here to discuss 80s rock – no, I’m here to talk about the wonderful world of Foursquare!

Foursquare is a location-based service (LBS) based on your Twitter network with an added level of social gameplay. It originally hit the Web as the Breakout Mobile App at SXSW in 2009. Basically, this app allows you to “check-in” from wherever you are, and then lets your friends and Twitter followers (if you have selected this option) know where to find you. You can add a “shout” to your check-in to make a comment about what you’re doing. You can also see what your friends are doing and where they are, search venues and read other Foursquare users’ comments and reviews on those locations. As an additional bonus, you can also earn Foursquare badges and ultimately become the mayor of the locations you visit most often.

Foursquare is also a big draw for businesses. Just like Yelp, businesses benefit from more people checking in and reviewing their establishment. Some businesses even use Foursquare to create a social media contest like no other – offer free incentives for the person who is the “mayor” of your location. This entices people to check in more often to that particular spot in order to receive the title of mayor and all the rights and benefits thereto. Here is a list of businesses currently offering “mayor specials.” Two weekends ago I checked into Fish City Grill on Henderson and a nearby restaurant popped onto my Foursquare screen offering me a free meal special because I was in the area. This is a great way to grab new customers who may not have had your business top of mind but are attracted by your offer.

The Foursquare developers understand how companies can utilize this site, and recently announced they will be releasing a free analytics tool and dashboard allowing businesses to monitor information about the people visiting their establishments. This is a fantastic idea and allows consumers to interact more with their favorite locations and better their overall experience.

However, Foursquare is not the first or the only location-based social networking app. It was actually adapted from Dodgeball, which was acquired by Google in 2005 and shut down in January 2009. Gowalla is another popular location-based app which is very similar to Foursquare but is more about the scavenger hunt game than connecting with friends.

It’s clear that location-based social networks are gaining popularity, and with Facebook’s announcement about launching location features starting next month, it’s clear that LBS technology will remain a huge trend – at least for the rest of 2010.

I’m a big fan of Foursquare and link it to my personal Twitter page. It’s a lot of fun seeing where your friends are and trying new places because of the reviews on Foursquare. What about you? Are you on Foursquare or Gowalla? What do you think of these location-based networking sites? Do you think the new Facebook feature will be as big as the original LBS sites?

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