Can Foursquare Help Your Business?

Not yet. As small business owners we have to make smart decisions about how we invest our marketing dollars and our time. With all the buzz about Foursquare and Facebook Places, it probably seems like your company should start integrating these location-based services into your marketing plans… But, not so fast.

Since most small businesses don’t have the resources or budget to test out every “new thing,” it’s smart to do a bit of research before diving into something new. Smart entrepreneurs are the ones who carefully watch and learn from the mistakes of bigger companies.

Luckily for us, The Gap recently ran a promotion using Facebook Places (Facebook’s equivalent to Foursquare). The promotion offered a free pair of jeans to anyone who showed up to a Gap store and “checked-in.” While The Gap, considered the promotion a success, the retailer’s Facebook wall tells a different story. Apparently, consumers did not understand the whole notion of “checking-in.” They weren’t sure what Gap was talking about when it referenced “Facebook Places.” Customers thought they needed some type of “coupon” to give to the store. All of the confusion created frustrated customers, and took away from what was supposed to be a positive promotion for The Gap. For more details about the Gap promo, check out the original story on NY Times.

Based on the overwhelming consumer feedback, it appears that it is too soon for businesses to run promotions or offer discounts using Foursquare and Facebook Places. Although it “seems” like a great idea, location-sharing has not become mainstream enough for customers to know what businesses are talking about when referencing these services.

Additionally, the Pew Research Center published a report saying that on any given day, only 1 percent of adult Americans use a service that allows them to share their location. Even though Foursquare and Facebook Places is a big topic online, it hasn’t really caught on yet with mainstream America. Give it more time, before integrating these services into your marketing/sales plan. For now, it may just be a big waste of your energy and resources.

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