Location-based service Foursquare has been working to transform itself into a platform on which businesses can connect with customers. For over a year and a half, it has created pages for national businesses that come with a series of tips. Early this month it rolled out self-service tools for businesses to create their own pages. More than 400 have been created.
So far, however, it’s hard to see much in the way of consumer activity, based on an examination of several pages. And the inattention isn’t just coming from consumers. Starbucks, a company that has actively staked out digital ground across a variety of platforms, has posted only five tips on its Foursquare page, the last one on April 7. It appears that brands are beginning to lose interest in the format as well.
Not surprisingly, given how young regular Foursquare users skew, MTV tops the most popular list for brands. The network’s page lists 280,019 followers and has posted 128 tips, heavily concentrated in New York and California with a smattering of tips in the Southeast. Foursquare users checking into a venue are presented with tips from brands like MTV along with those from users who can indicate “I’ve done this.” Some of the MTV tips have been popular, with Foursquare users indicating they’ve done them, although it’s been almost a year since any one of the tips attracted more than 100 check-ins. And some are duds, with as few as 13 consumer responses. The most recent tip was posted more than three weeks ago.
Zagat, the first-generation food guide, and Foursquare would seem to be a perfect fit. It was a compelling enough relationship for The New York Times to write about it back in February 2010. A marriage between Foursquare and Zagat was to serve as a technology bridge for a company that still enjoys big brand recognition. But even though the page is listed as Foursquare’s fourth most popular with 198,374 followers, it appears that Zagat has lost interest in the platform. The page has not been updated since September 2010.
The New York Times page, also in the top-20 most popular with 129,309 followers, launched during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, a partnership covered by Mashable. Followers were invited to check in at various restaurants in and around the Olympic village. But the tips rarely attracted more than a couple dozen user affirmations. Even now, as the Times shifts its focus back to restaurants in New York, it rarely receives more than 35 responses for each tip it posts. The last tip was posted in June.
It’s much the same story at other Foursquare Pages launched by media entities. Bon Appetit Magazine suggests that followers check in at the magazine’s restaurant partners, and Gossip Girl gives promotional pushes to New York locations that have figured in the show. Those pages too are launguishing.
It’s an open question whether self-serve pages will fare any better. It’s only been three weeks since those pages have launched, too short a time frame to judge success. As is often the case with social media, many companies have rushed to stake out territory in this relatively new space without a clear goal. The question is, will it help companies to connect with their audiences? The answer, at least right now, appears to be probably not.
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