TWTRCON: Why I finally buy in to foursquare..

The second panel of the morning at TWTRCON on June 14, 2010, consisted of Dennis Crowley, Foursquare, Matt Galligan, SimpleGeo, Brad Nelson, Starbucks, and Josh Williams of Gowalla, moderated by Adam Ostrow, Mashable.

Right Time, Right Place, is a perfect title for a panel about geolocation apps. Readers who also follow me on Twitter know how resistant I’ve been to the use of this type of app. Call me cautious, skeptical, or at the tipping point in adaption of social media tools, I just couldn’t see the point of earning badges or collecting items outside a video game construct.

In the interest of fair and accurate blogging, I decided to start actively using foursquare a few days before TWTRCON. I got my newb badge and assumed that badge was named to encourage users to become adventurers asap! So I began by checking in at Branches during our senior awards dinner … and was promptly taunted by the teachers on my left and right!

Undaunted, I checked in at just about every retail or public location I visited over the weekend. My local library has no mayor – I love my library, I should be mayor! My pet store? not even on foursquare so I added them. Both the supermarkets I shop at have the same mayor; doesn’t seem fair!

On the day of the conference, I checked in at Little Silver train station, Penn Station and the New York Hilton. Moved up to Adventurer and got a swarm badge for my efforts. Stilll felt a little silly but I was at TWTRCON so figured I could keep this up for another day. Acknowledged my swarm badge at the end of the first panel only to look up from my iPhone to see a new panel full of late 20-something hipster techies.

Oh wait, they were the foursquare and Gowalla guys along with a Starbucks rep and another guy from SimpleGeo. Bring it on boys!

The discussion started with Starbucks’ newest promotion, $1 off a frapp for the foursquare mayor of every Starbucks. The conclusion of the panel? This partnership between a large retailer and a geolocation app validates location based marketing. Starbucks now engages the customer while they’re in the store. They may not be new customers, but the friends of these customers see their visits to locations, rewards for their visits, and then become new customers.

Gowalla extended that ability to interact with customers by providing travel content from USA Today to users who check in at airports around the US. This partnership not only provides information to Gowalla members, it provides USA Today with a venue to promote their underused Travel services.

Twitter extends these promotion; Twitter is where these services get amplified as users tweet their locations to their followers.

Lesson Number 1 from TWTRCON: Social media tools are most effective when they’re integrated.

Matt Galligan, SimpleGeo, jumped in and stated that this type of social network is an interesting way to connect with friends in a highly populated area but doesn’t translate well to rural areas. Discovery of different uses for different locales is the current challenge for this market; however, it’s obvious people want to use these tools, they just need to explore possibliities.

As I began to think about how the business owners I know in Asbury Park could use foursquare or Gowalla, the woman to my left turned to me to tell me about her small town in Maryland. Apparently, the downtown area actively promoted foursquare, rewarded users, and now residents energetically vie for mayorships along with the perks and benefits awarded the office holder. First Night or the CityArts event this September in Asbury Park both lend themselves to a foursquare marketing push.

Lesson Number 2 from TWTRCON: Location apps like foursquare help local businesses generate media impressions that weren’t available to them before the creation of these applications.

In closing, Josh Williams made an excellent point about the evolution of digital marketing. We started with blogs, extended posts with comments, the beginning of the conversation. Status updates shortened the length of information posted and sped up the rate of response. Tweets created tighter limits and almost immediate response. Now checkins are a 1-button way of communicating that allows friends and businesses to react immediately in real time and space.

Next blog post – Lessons I learned from Martha Stewart and PETA…


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