How to Use Foursquare for Mobile Marketing

by Josh Opinion on August 31, 2010


My First “Shout” on Foursquare

During the World Cup over the summer, I received a mysterious message from Foursquare on my Crackberry- “USA! USA! USA!”. I had no clue how I got it, but somehow a Foursquare “friend” had sent out a message directly on to my screen.

Searching into the Foursquare platform I learned mobile devices have an option to “Shout (broadcast a message to friends).”

I just got my first “shout” and the brain started to work.

The Foursquare Mobile Marketing Experiment

I set up a little experiment on Foursquare to see how it could work to deliver a geo-targeted message to an audience. Parts of the process can be said to be “gaming” the system, but these are the steps for the incomplete experiment…

Step 1: Sign Up for Foursquare

Captain Obvious here. (PS- You don’t need a smart phone to try this, just register for a Foursquare account.)

Step 2: Target the Audience

There are a lot of ways to target an audience on Twitter (and I am not talking the $29.95 automated software being offered by “social media ninjas/gurus/wizards/experts”).

Do a simple search on and click on the “Advanced Search” feature underneath the search bar.

You’ll need to be able to do 2 things:

1. Know your audience/market. Define them by a keyword or search string to start.

2. Pick a geographic area of where you want to target your audience.

Enter this information into the appropriate fields.

Step 3: Identify an Influencer

Your results from Step 2 will show a chronological listing of recent tweets based on your search keyword/phrase and target location. Analyze each individual tweet and identify a person who is real and is talking about things related to both your location and keyword/phrase.

Step 4: Use the “Find Friends” Feature in Foursquare

(This step can come off like its “gaming” the system, but it works.)

From Step 3, use the influencer you have identified and go to proceed to go to the “Find friends who follow me on Twitter” feature on Foursquare. Enter in the influencers name. It should generate a list of those influencer’s Twitter followers on Foursquare.

Step 5: Add the list of “friends” generated in Step 4 to your “friends” list on Foursquare

Captain Obvious to the rescue once again.

Step 6: Let time elapse.

Give time for the invitations to be accepted. It can take 3 days to a week to start getting your invites accepted.

Captain Obvious is still here.

Step 7: “Shout” to your audience

Remember in Step 1 I said you didn’t need a mobile phone to do this? Go to You are now on Foursquare’s mobile site. Item 3 is something you don’t see on the regular site, our infamous “Shout” button.

Click on it and type your message and “shout” away. Your message should have been “shouted” to the audience in your immediate area that you just built.

What will you do on Foursquare with this?

Have I tried this? Yes, in a controlled manner to see if the message would be delivered.

It did.

It would be easy to use this experiment to spam people, but anyone with common sense would understand that there are huge marketing limitations to the message you can deliver.

–  Like Twitter there are character limitations
– You can’t click on links
– Do you think someone will call a phone number sent to their phone?
– Will a normal person stop, write down an e-mail address with the intention of e-mailing you when they get a chance.

Probably not.

Most likely not.

There are a lot of other variants that don’t make this work. The obvious one being someone changing their setting to not allow for this.

A bigger factor is proper targeting and building your audience. It sounds easy, but from my small initial experiment with this you need to find people one by one, hope they are on Foursquare, and then hope they accept your invitation.

It’s time consuming work, that in most cases won’t work. There are too many limitations to the “shout”.

The real reason I wrote this…

I’m sorry, but I lied to you.

This blog post is not about leveraging Foursquare’s platform for mobile marketing.

Here is the real reason I wrote this…

What could you do for others?

What if you sent out a message telling your Foursquare “friends” to:

… give someone a hug
… phone a friend they hadn’t spoken to in a while
… pick up a piece of trash on the street
… use a refillable water bottle for the rest of the year

It’s cool to do this with your real friends and connections you have on Foursquare, but what if it was a complete stranger.

What if you spent 48 seconds one day a week to “shout” out a random act of kindness, not knowing who received it, how it was acted upon, or how it was paid forward?

Sorry I lied to you ;)

(not really)

  • genius business marketing

    hmm very interesting… regardless of who you are talking to, or what your saying, it’s funny that you can shout out to strangers.

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