Checking In with Foursquare

Foursquare’s check-in app has pulled ahead of the competition – now its task is to stay there.

Who elected you mayor? Foursquare did – and gave you some badges along the way. Few apps have been as successful at bridging the gap between real-life experiences and the digital world as Foursquare, which has about 7 million people using its mobile check-in service on their Smartphone.

Using Foursquare’s app, people can check in to businesses and places to share their location with friends while collecting points, getting discounts at local businesses, earning badges – and yes, even becoming mayor.

The company isn’t the only location- based mobile check-in service on the market, but has managed to hold its own amid considerable competition from Loopt, Facebook Places and new features on Google Latitude. It’s kept users engaged and appears to be growing steadily with a reported 2 million check-ins and 25,000 new users every day. Foursquare’s growth has outpaced that of both Loopt, which has about 4 million users, and Gowalla, whose user base has yet to crack the 1 million mark.

Neil Strother, head of ABI Research’s mobile marketing research, says Foursquare’s relationships with both major retailers and small businesses are a key contributor to its success. “Foursquare was among the first to excite the local retailer. Early on, they were getting individual shops to join in and stimulate their smartphone-carrying audience,” Strother says. “This goes beyond just checking in.” Foursquare has been able to drive momentum by cross marketing its app and services to both consumers, who are attracted to the app for the social element of the check-in service and the chance to get discounts, and retailers, who see Foursquare as a way to reach smartphone savvy consumers.

Last summer, Chili’s began offering free chips and salsa to customers who used Foursquare to check in at its restaurants. Foursquare’s corporate customers include a bevy of other companies, including the National Hockey League, Louis Vuitton and MTV. Foursquare also works with small and local businesses, who view the app as an easily accessible means to reach their mobile consumers.

Instead of resting on its laurels, Foursquare has responded to its success by frequently updating its app with new features, helping to keep the service relevant and interesting to users. “I know this sounds like a strange marketing strategy, but every time you have an update to the app it reminds people to use it,” says Jake Wengroff, director of social media strategy and research at ABI Research. “It’s not just a check-in service – you can check in with comments and photos. They’ve added additional social features which make Foursquare very, very appealing.” Social media is a fickle business, and the retail element of Foursquare will likely become increasingly important as the novelty of the app’s badges and mayors begins to fade among its long-term users.

“The allure of badges and mayorships may die down eventually, especially among its older audience set, but a good bargain will hold users’ interest for a while,” says Deepa Karthikeyan, an analyst at Current Analysis. “Retailers and merchants also help Foursquare earn additional revenue via advertising and revenue sharing deals.” Karthikeyan says new competition from Facebook Places and the addition of a check-in service on Google Latitude could push Foursquare to expand its relationships with retailers and add new features for users.

By expanding the app’s practical features, Foursquare will be able to retain fickle users and avoid becoming the MySpace of the mobile social networking world. Foursquare was co-founded by Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai, who met in 2007 while they were both working in New York City. The pair began building the first version of Foursquare in the fall of 2008 and launched the app at South by Southwest Interactive in March 2009. By September 2009, the company had received $1.35 million in seed funding from Union Square Ventures, O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures and seven angel investors, which it used to make its app more reliable, tweak its user interface, expand onto additional platforms and find new ways to work with local businesses.

At first, the app was only available in a selection of metropolitan areas around the world. In January 2010, Foursquare changed its model so that users could check in from any location. Foursquare opened its API to third-party developers, and its app is available for the iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Symbian, Palm and Windows Phone.

The company plans to celebrate its anniversary at South by Southwest this month, where it will launch a new version of its app. In a typically ebullient blog post, the company announced the news by writing “SXSW IS LESS THAN THREE WEEKS AWAY! NEW APP + NEW BADGES + PARTIES + CONCERT + MOAR FOURSQUARE. DETAILS COMING. OKTHXBAI.”

If Foursquare can maintain that level of enthusiasm and stay tuned to the needs of both consumers and businesses, it could be an app that’s here to stay.

Source of Information : Wireless Week

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