The Future Of Location-Based Marketing Isn’t Foursquare

For once in my life, I hope I am wrong. But I don’t think I am.

Over the last three years, check-in and local search start-up Foursquare has become the face of location-based services. And while the app has gained a lot of traction among those that run in the social crowds, it has only grown to 25 million members.

It sounds absurd for me to be using the words “only” and “25 million” in the same sentence, but, given the growth of image sharing/location-based app, Instagram — zero to 80 million in a little under two years — it feels like Foursquare may not gain the traction is needs to be a viable long-term player. With all that said, I still love Foursquare and regularly recommend it to clients.

Now That We Know What It Isn’t, What Is It?

If the future of location-based marketing isn’t Foursquare, what is it then?

How about Google Mobile? Yes, you heard me correctly. It’s not elegant. There is zero gamification. And to make matters worse, Google is obviously now ignoring iPhone users as witnessed by the cut off image (pictured right) that keeps those on iOS from seeing the full suite of options. But at the end of the day, Google is ubiquitous.

Again, I am not jumping off the Foursquare bandwagon and neither should you. But if you are doing something location-based, it is time to start paying more attention to Google. To that end, here are a few suggestions that can help optimize your campaigns:

  • You should make sure that your Google Places information is accurate. This starts by making sure you have claimed your venue(s).
  • If you haven’t yet created a Google+ page for your business, do so. We still don’t know exactly what role Google + plays in the search engine’s weighted algorithms, but we do know that +1s (Google’s equivalent of Facebook “likes”) play a role in personalized search, at least.
  • If you are doing any search engine marketing (SEM), you can be sure that Google will eventually start offering the equivalent of sponsored updates similar to what Foursquare is currently doing.

One more thing: it’s also smart to keep an eye on Apple’s new Passbook feature that launched with iOS 6 and the iPhone 5. This will be covered in greater detail in a subsequent post, but this could ultimately be a game changer in the location-based marketing space.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Check-In Services | Foursquare | Google: Google+ | Google: Mobile | Mobile Marketing | Mobile Marketing Column


About The Author: is Managing Director at W2O Group, where he co-leads marketing and is the head of the newly formed Social Commerce practice. Aaron assists clients with mobile and location-based marketing campaigns and strategy. He is also the co-author of Location-Based Marketing for Dummies (wiley) and an avid blogger, podcaster and speaker. Earlier in his career Aaron spent time as head of marketing and social media at Mzinga and Powered/Dachis Group. Before heading off into the startup/agency world, Aaron worked at Fidelity Investments for 9 years in a variety of digital marketing roles.

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  • Russ_Somers

    As a fellow Foursquare fan, I agree with the prediction that Google Mobile may be it. It’s not about functionality, it never is. It’s being (ironically, for location-based marketing) everywhere…which Google excels at.

  • Eric Miltsch

    Yea, it’s a bitter pill to swallow Aaron, but the handwriting is on the wall. Passive check-in activities, picture sharing, social discovery and socially connected reviews & recommendations via other platforms – especially G+, could be too strong for niche platforms. Nice post.

  • mattsnod

    Now this is more general than this post, Aaron, but I truly feel this rift between Apple and Google is bad for consumers. See your example above, see the awful iOS6 maps, see the lack of a YouTube app for the iPad. No good can come of this.

    But … I’ll continue to check in when I can :)

  • Jay, King of Gay

    Google is obviously now ignoring iPhone users as witnessed by the cut off image (pictured right) that keeps those on iOS from seeing the full suite of options. But at the end of the day, Google is ubiquitous.

    Those items scroll. I don’t know if your mobile Safari supports that kind of coding, but on my Nexus it looks like your above image until i drag to the left.

  • Carlos Pacheco

    You do have a point with Google but comparing Foursquare to Instagram isn’t fair since it was I I feel still is primarily a photo sharing app, yes location is part of it but it only became an important part of it in its last update.

    Its easier to convince smartphone users to share a random picture than location, a vast majority of smartphone users are not interested in sharing real time locations and I can understand why.
    As for me, over the last 2+ years on the service I go through waves of using it. Right now its still my top choice for checking into places because thats its primary function and I know I’m not annoying my friends doing it ass opposed to other platforms.
    My main gripe with Foursquare isn’t with the app, its with 3rd party apps who often have bad/limited 4sq functions integrated into them.

    Google Places and Yelp have been there for years but only started getting their act together once Foursquare showed that people are interested in sharing these kinds of signals which forced them to adapt and awakened Facebook.

    Finally Aaron, I do think you’re right that its not about Foursquare but I’m not counting them out by a long shot. I think there’s space for a few players in the location sharing space. Marketers use more than one point of contact in their strategies and that should be reflected in location based marketing as well.

  • Schneider Mike

    scroll shmoll. Make your design respond! :)

  • Schneider Mike

    “I want your local” has been my mantra for as long as I can remember.

    The key to getting someone else’s local is to FIND their local and no one is better poised to do that than Google with their search technology.
    The reason I disagree with you (as you noted I would because you know me better than anyone, thanks for being my brother from another mother) is that finding isn’t the same for everyone. This is what makes foursquare (a little) special. It prioritizes based on friends and yes, Google tries to do that too in the browser, but the experience is poor.
    I’ve said this before, but what Google needs to do to perfect local search (and fix google+) is to combine interests, not friends, with search. It’s not only about using the things that people have in common to make them more like themselves (like helping them find the best almond croissants in a new city), but also to discover what they don’t have in common (like Mike doesn’t has a lot of experience with art museums but Aaron is into them and might like them if Aaron recommended them to him), inject that into the mix and BOOM. Horizons are broadened. No one does this well at all yet, but foursquare is connecting other apps and has a chance to refine their results based on this.

  • Chris Albinson

    Finally, some is admitting 4 Square has no clothes. Companies like Google, Jiwire, and Apple will have he critical mass (500M+) to allow marketers to segment and get the audience they need. Out of the sandbox and into mission critical spend.

  • Matthew Shields

    Personally I’m not a fan of the “gamification” of these types of services and I think others may feel the same? Sure it’s neat for a while but it’s not compelling enough to think about it everywhere you go… not in the long term anyway.

    I think the game changer for location based marketing will be indoor navigation… might even give services like FourSquare a shot in the arm that they need. Interesting times indeed


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