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Foursquare

Foursquare’s general manager, Evan Cohen, is giving a talk at the ILM conference I just spoke at.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

He says there have been 381,000,000 check-ins so far. In every single country. The last country to check in was North Korea. The biggest single event was the Rally to Restore Sanity. “The most basic user experience is simply when friends check-in to their current location to find their friends.” “We help engineer serendipity” in which you discover a friend is nearby.

Their value proposition: Discovery, encouragement, and loyalty.

Discovery: They want to push people out into the real world. They’ve just launched an “explore” tag, a recommendation engine. It uses info about what your friends like to do, what people like you like to do, what people are saying in the “tips” review feature, etc. “We want to be like that best friend who knows every cool bar in Chicago, or every restaurant…”

Encouragement: Use gaming mechanics to get people to do what they wouldn’t have done otherwise. The mayor races have become really competitive. If someone loses it, they’ll go back to the place over and over. Their badges also encourage people to go out. E.g., go out to the gym a few times a week and you’ll get the gym rat badge. They have also improved their leader board. The Ambassador program enables users to bring merchants onto Foursquare.

Loyalty: They encourage merchants to offer rewards of various types. They’ve relaunched this part of the platform: easier for merchants, for users, and new “specials” types. They’re now offering “flash specials” to drive traffic when the place is under-utilized. Not all specials are discounts. “It’s an experience.” They also have a “friends special” that only works if you show up with some number of friends. Over 250,000 venues have verified on the merchant platform. Merchants have done creative things with Foursquare. Even when Starbucks offered a mere $1 off a frappucino to the local mayors, checkins jumped by 50%. “It’s about the experience and recognition as much as anything.”

They have a full and easy API, modeled on Twitter’s.

[I find Foursquare fascinating. To the users it's a game. To the merchants, it's a form of marketing. And as a blending of the virtual, the real, gaming, and marketing, it's amazing.]

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