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About 2 months ago, Mashable broke the news that everyone's favourite American coffee chain was planning on introducing a new Foursquare marketing campaign. Similar to rival chains' loyalty card systems, which give you a stamp every time you buy a coffee and eventually allow you to claim a free coffee when you've saved up enough stamps, for a month US branches of Starbucks rewarded their the Foursquare mayors of individual Starbucks stores with a $1 discount on a Frappucino.
According to the Foursquare blog, the campaign was a roaring success for the coffee brand: "Since running their Mayor Special on foursquare, Starbucks (already the most checked in retailer on the platform prior to running the Special) has seen a 50% increase in Check-Ins at its locations."
In the UK, Starbucks also introduced the 'Barista' badge, allowing Foursquare users to add a Starbucks badge to their profile following a check-in at one of their many outlets.
All this is obviously fantastic for both brand loyalty and awareness, not to mention the coffee chain's wider online marketing campaign. An innovative social media promotion such as this can't help but generate a huge amount of buzz online, not just on Foursquare but across all social media platforms - particularly when you consider the integration Foursquare has achieved, as it allows users to feed their updates into both Twitter and Facebook - and buzz generates links. This blog post, this article on Mashable and this in the New York Times, are good examples of the kind of coverage this campaign is getting.
Of course, Starbucks is already a huge brand and therefore garners a great deal of media attention anyway, but there's no reason why a smaller or un-established brand can't increase their online presence by utilising services such as Foursquare to offer customer rewards, whether they're real world or imaginary (although the value of a Foursquare badge for an unknown brand is questionable).
In the UK, Domino's is offering free pizzas to the Foursquare mayor of a given outlet and free side dishes to all Foursquare users spending over £10.
Chris Moore, CEO of Domino’s, said, "Our customers are heavy users of social media so it makes sense for us to communicate with them in this way. Following the success of our recent Facebook superfan initiative and affiliates’ widget, Foursquare was the obvious next step".
Once again, this kind of promotion generates a huge amount of buzz on social media - the only issue is the ease with which Foursquare users can 'cheat', by checking in to a Domino's outlet from home until they become mayor, and then turn up to claim their free pizza.
As a huge company, Domino's can easily eat up that cost, particularly when they take into account the publicity they'll gain as a result of the promotion - but could a smaller firm?
Foursquare for I-COM clients
I-COM has already started claiming the Foursquare locations for its clients - the next step is working out exactly how useful Foursquare can be for non-global brands. After all, it's all very well for Starbucks and Domino's to take their already considerable real world following online - it's a whole different matter for a start-up company to actually generate brand awareness.
Foursquare remains a niche interest in social media terms, and it's domination of the location-based social media market is currently under threat from rival application Gowalla, however its marketing potential, and that of its ilk, are evident and are an area that will be interesting to exploit in future online marketing campaigns.