I consider myself somewhat of a social-media fanatic; I spend large portions of my day reading blogs, tweets and other posts as a means of keeping myself up-to-date on current events. Recently, there has been a lot of chatter about a new social media platform called Foursquare. I finally had the time to discover what Foursquare is and why it is important to public relations.
CHECKING IN: WHAT IS FOURSQUARE?
A Mobile Approach to Social Media
A location-based social media site, Foursquare allows users to “check in” to their city through their cell-phones. For example, if I were to visit a Starbucks, I would use the Foursquare app on my phone to share my location with my friends. This makes it easier to see where your friends spend their time and to share with them where you spend your time. Over time, users earn badges rewarding active usage of the site, and if you “check in” to one location more than anyone else, the title of “The Mayor” is yours for the taking (at least until someone else “checks in” more than you).
Foursquare’s unique cellular platform makes perfect sense for the Millennials who can’t live without technology. An unfortunate downfall of Foursquare for those of us behind the times in cellular technology is that this site is made for smart phones. If you don’t have a smart phone, use text messaging instead. It’s not as much fun or visually appealing, but you can still get the gist of the site.
THE PR CONNECTION
How Foursquare Can Benefit PR Practitioners
There are several reasons a PR practitioner could use Foursquare. The first of them is how easy it is to identify target audiences using this social media platform. For example, if you are working on promoting a coffee shop in Eugene, you could use Foursquare to learn about the demographic of that particular business. The downside to this is that not everyone visiting the coffee shop is using Foursquare, but Foursquare will certainly help you hone in on the drinking habits of one particular demographic. Hopefully, the site will gain more recognition, which would make identifying these groups easier.
The second benefit of Foursquare for PR practitioners is instant notification. Recently, there was a bomb scare in Times Square, New York. As reported by Kim LaCapria of The Inquisitr, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) used its Foursquare account to share news of the Times Square evacuation on May 7, 2010, with everyone in the adjacent area. Although no incident occurred, this shows how we can use social media in our everyday lives. Pretend you’re still promoting the Eugene coffee shop from before; you could use Foursquare to notify users of daily drink specials or to tell users of a new product release. In fact, certain businesses give perks or coupons to “The Mayor” of their location.
A third benefit of Foursquare is keeping up with trends. Foursquare allows you to see the activity of other users at the same location, along with reading tips written by previous visitors about what to look for and what to avoid. Using the tips and trends section of Foursquare, a PR practitioner could discover the behavior of users including what they do and do not like about a specific place. Let’s go back to the coffee shop example again; as a PR practitioner, you could use Foursquare to read what users have written about your business and implementing any changes necessary to please your customers. Utilizing these tips shows your audience that you try to engage to them in new ways.
Unfortunately, Foursquare present a new set of privacy issues surrounding social media. I recommend never checking in at your home and making sure to make your profile private to avoid unwanted friends. As with all social media, be careful about the information you put on the Internet. Enjoy earning your badges! I know Foursquare is the only way I’m going to become “The Mayor” of anything!