13 Ways Businesses Can Leverage Foursquare and Gowalla

On January 18, 2010, in Uncategorized, by Mike D. Merrill (@mikedmerrill)


Hello, my name is Mike Merrill and I’m addicted to location-based apps. The first step is to admit you have a problem. While the gaming aspect can be appealing, what’s keeping me up at night are the innovative ways companies will be able to take advantage of Foursquare and Gowalla to reward influencers and loyal fans. After all, most social media updates are about where your at and what your doing.

I’ll admit I was a bit late to the party here. At first I thought the whole gaming aspect was a bit sophomoric for a guy like me. Then I started using the applications and started to see the potential. It’s not about the game at all; although I will admit I do like becoming mayor of a place. As I have mentioned before here, one of the easy ways to get your customers to talk about your brand is to make it easy for them to share an experience with others. Design your applications and create content that makes it easy for your biggest fans to talk about you.

There were three stories in the last week that kept me up the last few days. So like all bloggers, I’m putting pen to paper..or fingers to keyboard I mean.

  1. Tasti-D Loyalty Program
  2. Harvard Teams up With Foursquare
  3. Go out with Gowalla and Incase

13 Innovative Ways to Leverage Foursquare and Gowalla

  1. Starbucks: As a company with loyal fans and stores everywhere on the planet, we have all seen how profitable their rewards card have been. In fact, they continue to come up with more incentives to get us to use them. Just recently they announced free wireless if you maintain a balance on your rewards card. Why not update their location and status as the reward care is swiped?
  2. Gym: It’s no mystery that everyone wants to be the mayor of the gym they  frequent. This is often the most coveted mayorship on foursquare in gyms across the country. As customer’s swipe their gym card check them in. With Gowalla, create special stamps for number of check-ins at a gym with unique names such as Gym Rat, etc.
  3. Movie Theatres: How many folks actually ever purchase and use movie rewards cards? What if, like the Tasti-D example, you get double reward points when you tie to your Facebook and Twitter?
  4. Airlines: Reward miles to folks who use their Advantage card or Advantage Credit Card and tie to their social stream. For example, if a customer gets upgraded to first class, update their lifestream and location. Why not hit their stream when they get upgraded to Executive Platinum or Platinum as well?
  5. Hertz: When you upgrade them to a nicer car or higher status, let them update their social stream.
  6. Nike + iTunes: Now I know there is a way now that you can tweet about your run once you sync to iTunes, but what about while you are actually running. It sure would be neat if you could optionally, tweet your location and distance while on the run. Something like “Mike is on mile 2 at Russell Creek Park”. Then your spouse would know when to expect you.
  7. Marathons, Triathlons, and Bike Races: What if using GPS and markers at each mile or significant mile marker you could automatically update athletes location on the route to their social stream. Then folks could follow real-time from home.
  8. Hotels: Update their status when they check in with their Hilton Honors or Marriott Rewards card for example.
  9. Music Purchase: Why not give folks the option to check in and update their applications when they download a song via iTunes. Now personally, I don’t want to see every purchase, but I know I use Shazam to share what I’m listening too while driving.
  10. iPhone App Installation: Similar to above, why not give me the ability to update that I downloaded and installed an app, my location and share with my stream.
  11. College tours: Every campus should use these for touring campus as well as for existing students similar to what Harvard provided. Let folks connect and get to know each other. More importantly, think of the great hidden tips about historical buildings you could provide. Gowalla already has the concept of trips built-in.
  12. City Tours: Take this to the next level and use for athletic city scavenger hunts. Provide tips and tricks to find the next place to check in and use for competitive races or for just folks to go on walking tours. What if you teamed with Gowalla to provide special stamps along the way as well.
  13. Giveaways. Foursquare offers this today for businesses. Reward the new mayor with 50% off their bill. What a great incentive for folks to visit and to check in where they are. Who knows, maybe more folks will visit your establishment if they keep seeing that folks are eating there. Per the story above, Gowalla also featured the promotion with Incase where if you check in at an Apple store you could win Incase giveaways.

Make the Check-ins Optional

Regardless of which way you choose to take advantage of the hyper growth of location-based applications, give the user the choice whether their status is automatically updated or not. You never know when that person may not want to share that specific information.

What say you? What ideas have you thought of? Please comment below.

Creative Commons License photo credit: cambodia4kidsorg

  • bradmays

    Great post, Mike. There is a lot of potential for these apps. I think one of the barriers that they will have to overcome is the resistance consumers will have to share their location. But, as phones get faster and the use of social media spreads, this will continue to become less of an issue in many people's mind. We're just beginning to see these tools emerge. It will be interesting to see what level of experiments brands are willing to make. And, I think the thing that could potentially kill the category is the urge by many to try to apply traditional advertising models to this medium. The sooner mobile is disassociated with traditional texting and advertising models, the better off this category will be.

  • http://www.mikemerrill.com Mike D. Merrill

    I do think consumers still need to be given a choice. Often times we want to be “off the grid”. However, there will be times folks want to make their location known and this is where the power comes in. One I forgot to mention was McDonald's. They could bring back the Mayor McCheese. Better yet, use Gowalla for their Monopoly game and have them collect stamps to finish the board game.

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  • http://ericbrown.com ericbrown

    Excellent work Mike.

    I've been looking for a good summary of apps like these…found one :)

  • http://kickapps.com/ Aaron Bollinger

    I think this technology will spark some serious partner marketing that will cause a whole new level of collaboration among local businesses…Come to the nearest Starbucks after the movie at AMC and get double points…etc. I'm also interested to see how owning/becoming a mayor of a location will scale. Once ten thousand of a store's customers are using gowalla they won't want just one person having a special title. “Mayor” may need to give way to “Congress” or “Board of Directors” to accommodate more leaders for one location.

  • http://www.mikemerrill.com Mike D. Merrill

    Eric, Thanks for the reply and Retweet as well

  • http://www.mikemerrill.com Mike D. Merrill

    Well if you think about it, Mayor is where they started, but why not a Monarchy, King, Queen, Duke, Dutchess, etc

  • http://how-to-blog.tv/ Derick Schaefer

    Totally agree with you on it will be interesting to see how the concept truly scales.

    Great work Mike. I too have been looking for real world application and analysis of both concepts.

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  • http://twitter.com/cgenglund Chris

    I'm glad I stumbled upon this post. I have to admit, I was mystified by FourSquare and this is a great education for me.

    So, you say you're a fan of location-based applications. Do tell, what's your insight for the iPad: full-screen experience AND fully mobile??

  • http://www.mikemerrill.com Mike D. Merrill

    Chris, thanks for stopping by the site. Brands have struggled for a platform that keeps folks engaged. Location-based apps may be it. As for the iPad, there could be gaming elements that require a larger input.

  • http://christopherenglund.blogspot.com/ Chris Englund

    A lot of these location-based apps are optimized for small screens. Large screens mean richer content and more content. I'm confident our collective genius will create something new & exciting soon.