Foursquare, one of the latest mobile phone apps, is used as a social guide to the city a user lives in, allowing them to ‘check in’ wherever you happen to be at the moment. For instance, someone gets up in the morning, goes to work, and checks in. Those who you are friends with or who are in your contact list will see that this person is at work. Now say they leave work and go to the mall. They then check in at the mall. Kind of cool when it comes to the social aspect of the app, but what does this have to do with marketing strategy?

The whole point of using Foursquare is to encourage users to venture out into the city in which they live, and then reward them for doing so. Therefore, business involvement is important. In order for this to really take off as a highly successful marketing strategy, businesseses need to continue to get involved.

The first step for business involvement is for the business to visit their venue’s Foursquare page, and claim that they manage the venue. After doing so, the business manager can offer those who check in at their business special offers and discounts. For example, some restaurants will serve you a free appetizer just for checking in, and all they have to do is show the server. Retailers will offer discounts on specific products. Bars and other venues will encourage higher numbers of visitors by offering a special or discount only after a certain number of people have checked in. I don’t know about you, but free food and drinks always sounds appealing to me.

The rewards get sweeter the more loyal the user is to the places they frequent most. Visit a venue enough, and they will become ‘Mayor’ of that specific place. Sounds a bit strange, but ‘Mayor’ status will give users the greatest benefits, and the most free goods and upgrades. Basically, a user’s loyalty is rewarded.

If you think about it, this app started out just as Facebook did. A form of social networking, keeping in touch with friends, and even meeting new people. But it has essentially become a giant marketing tool for hundreds of thousands of brands and businesses throughout the world. The same is true of Foursquare; it is becoming a powerful marketing tool by engaging users and rewarding their exploration with discounted (in some cases free) food, drinks, merchandise, etc.

As a user, Foursquare is a way to learn about new places, receive discounts and get free stuff. As a business owner, it’s a way to get new customers in the door and reward faithful ones as well. Who would have thought that a little smart phone app could bring friends closer, and give you free stuff too? Sounds like Foursquare is really onto something.

Perhaps one of the most important elements in marketing a brand or product is to connect with the consumers. I believe that Foursquare has come up with a very interactive way of engaging people, which can be fairly difficult at times. But this app actually links businesses out there to people directly in their vicinity, and pulls them in with reward incentives. Not only that, but this strategy promotes incentive for customers to return time and time again, which again can be very difficult to do in today’s competitive market. Coupons may serve the same purpose, but with the whole social networking craze among us, I think that Foursquare has really come up with something interesting and fresh. It’s a fantastic way to get people out of the house, on to the town, and into surrounding businesses.