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If I Did Marketing for Foursquare I Would…

John Doherty —  November 5, 2013
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I love new businesses. I love technology that connects the world. I also hate seeing companies who change the world languish and not reach their full potential. FourSquare is one of those businesses for me.

I’ve thought for a while now about what I would do if I was Head of Online Marketing for Foursquare. No, I’m not looking for a new job, because I just started my new job at apartment site HotPads, but if I was I’d write this about Foursquare. If you’re the marketer at Foursquare, listen up. And if you know that person, you should forward this to them.

I have four three things you should do to see a bump in traffic.

Build A Web Presence

Note: I wrote this, and they rolled out their new site before I could publish. Well done guys.

Foursquare is one of the few startups that I can think of (Instagram and Snapchat come to mind) that has been able to build a mobile-first experience and company. Of course, Foursquare did this in competition with Dowalla. They ended up winning that fight and were the first movers in the check-in space, so they received good growth from the start.

While I agree and accept that the world is moving to mobile, and there are even countries skipping the desktop and moving to mobile, desktop and mobile search can still drive amazing traffic. Look at sites like Yelp and even OpenTable. These sites rank very well for restaurant names and have been able to monetize it. Even if you monetize with traffic, at least you’re monetizing. Foursquare is struggling to monetize, so this could be a nice stopgap while they figure out their mobile revenue streams.

So build a web presence. Offer something different than Yelp.

Oh wait, you have that. You have how popular a restaurant is. You have even how popular an airline at a specific airport is. You should harness that to not only show popularity, but also to make it a point of pride for restaurants and users. And you can use this data for awesome, because you know the types of places I go after other places (thanks to 4SQDAY):

checkins

But for the love of pete, allow me to embed them. Also, do more of this and this. Data = awesome. Tell us stories.

Email (or Text!) Me Recommendations

Foursquare, I’ve been a member of yours for over two years. I thought we were friends. I’ve given you a lot of time. I’ve played with you when I was bored. I’ve ignored other friends for you. I’ve given you free information. You even know where people go:

people-go-after

But never once have you recommended a restaurant to me. Or told me where I should take my girlfriend on a date because others have taken their girlfriends there and they had a great time.

You should get in touch more often. I give you permission to do so, and I bet a lot of other people will too.

Another bonus to this: you have nationwide and worldwide coverage. My friend tells me you are immensely popular in Turkey. This gives you a huge power, because now when I check in at another airport in another state while traveling, you can recommend me places to eat or see there. You know where I am. Leverage that. Don’t underestimate the power of the connections you have drawn for people too.

Be More Aggressive About Reviews/Tips

The most useful part of Yelp is their star ratings system. If I see a restaurant with less than 4 stars, I’m a bit reluctant to go there.

But you offer tips, and that is the center of your experience. You should take the different tips people leave and surface them as search filters. But you should also ask me more often to leave tips about the place. I know you’re trying to gather information about credit cards and pricing through the app right now, but do more than ask me yes/no questions. Also ask me what I would recommend people get or what I enjoyed the most.

ask-for-tips

Curate Awesome Content

Finally, you are in the position to be the place people go when they are trying to find out what’s happening at the Met or where they should stay on a business trip to Atlanta. You have data on everything.

I have always wanted a service that will recommend places for me to go on Saturday night based on other places I’ve been or bands I’ve seen. I’ve managed to cobble together a decent workflow for finding good new restaurants or when my favorite band is coming to town (Wednesday, by the way), but you should be doing that for. I shouldn’t have to use BandsInTown on Facebook and Thriliist for restaurants. You know what I like. Curate that for me and I’ll love you forever, especially as I move to San Francisco.

Conclusion

I love you, Foursquare. Build a decent web experience and send me communications, and I’ll love you even more.

Love,

John

John Doherty

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I'm the new (as of October 2013) Online Marketing Manager of Hotpads.com, soon to be based in San Francisco. Previous to Hotpads I worked at Distilled for 2 years as an online marketing consultant. In my spare time I shoot lifestyle photography, explore new and interesting food in New York, ski, rock climb, and update my Twitter and Google+ accounts.

4 responses to If I Did Marketing for Foursquare I Would…

  1. Couldn’t agree with you more John.

    I was originally a lover of all things GoWalla but then GoWalla changed too much and I didn’t like it anymore. I quickly made the leap to Foursquare and haven’t looked back. It’s honestly made some of my vacations more memorable by getting to check in to cool places and share with friends.

    That said – I hate to see such a good thing go to waste but you’re right. There is SO much room for potential. I would love it if they offered a “Rate This” for restaurants. It’s quick and easy. Very rarely do I want to write out a tip because I’m enjoying my dinning experience but if the star rating option was there, I’d totally click on it!

  2. Hi John,
    I am sure that those in charge of marketing at Foursquare would read your post and take the right action. Two key areas should be addressed by the marketers, valuable content and aggressive/effective marketing strategy. Good to know of these and I am pretty sure other marketers would find this piece handy and resourceful. Thanks for sharing!

    I left the above comment in kingged.com the social bookmarking and content syndication website for Internet marketers where this article was found and “kingged”.
    Sunday – kingged.com contributor

    http://kingged.com/if-i-did-marketing-for-foursquare-i-would/

  3. If you did do marketing for FourSquare, you’d probably just work there for a few months then decide that you wanted a change and move somewhere else to do marketing for someone else.