Considering the rapid growth of both mobile phone use and social media in Australia, a marketing marriage between the two seems inevitable. Mobile marketing has traditionally focused on SMS offers sent to registered consumers who float into an organisation’s GPS zone. They consist largely of time-sensitive promotions – free coffee with lunch for the next two hours, has far more relevance sent to users in the vicinity of the business than those who are not. Meanwhile, social media marketing communicates posts and, more recently, advertisements into the newsfeeds of users who are following a brand on social media, regardless of their location. It makes marketing sense to combine the two, pushing promotions into the social media news feeds of users who have opted-in for promotions and have entered the GPS zone of the business?
Andreas M. Kaplan certainly believes so, he proposes mobile social media marketing as the new revolution and nominates Foursquare as the market leader with “nearly 10 million registered users and a growth rate of 30,000 a day.” But to be honest, the mention of Foursquare felt like someone had said, “Do you remember when your TV remote was attached to the telly with a cord?” I do remember a brief period of friends ‘checking in to Foursquare’ but it was fleeting and it has been years since I have heard anybody mention it in conversation or seen it in my social media feed. Kaplan’s article was published in 2012, surely the ‘market leader’ of the ‘new revolution’ has not been completely forgotten four short years later?
Is it just my social circle who fell out of love with earning their badges? Has Foursquare been replaced by another market leader? Or is it simply not as popular in Australia as it is in the US? So… what ever happened to Foursquare?
Well it is true that Foursquare is far more popular in the US, of their 30 million users worldwide (2013) only half were outside the US, with 56,000 in Australia. Yet even in the US, Foursquare’s Monthly Active User numbers have been in steep decline. Internally this appears to be due to a loss of managerial direction after the initial hype wore off and the reality of needing to grow into a viable business began to sink in. They rolled out the first in-app business ads in 2012, then encouraged some 85,000 plus companies to use their location engine (including Twitter, Google and Yahoo) but did not charge for this service until last year. Then in 2014, they threw commentators into confusion when they split the experience into two separate apps – Foursquare for personal search and recommendations and Swarm for check-ins.
Foursquare’s rudderless organisational direction aside, surely mobile social media marketing does not live and die with them? Surely, with the introduction of wearable mobile devices such as the Apple Watch, the increasing popularity of personal tracking devices such as the FitBit and the stable growth in popularity of social media, not just as a source of entertainment, but increasingly as a source of information will mean that another big player will move into this space and simply reinvent the Foursquare concept and improve on it.
It would appear that Facebook has filled this space by offering Facebook Places, where users check-in to cities / venues, and Local Awareness Ads, where marketers can display advertisements to users who live in or have recently been in the vicinity of their business (and can drill down on age and gender). As 60% of users visit a business’ Facebook page before visiting the business itself, it seems that these services are working for users, despite lacking the gamification and hype that we loved so briefly in Foursquare. To me this indicates that while points, badges and games are fun and the initial uptake can be astronomical, their novelty soon wears off. On the other hand, Kaplan was onto something with his Four I’s – the Facebook applications considers the needs of the consumer by Individualising (targetting) advertising messages, Involving the user by making it easy for them to check-in, Integrating it into the social media platform they use most and Initiating the creation of UGC via reviews or photos.