Foursquare and its role in public relations

The idea of somebody or something- an organization, company, etc.- monitoring all my interactions has always been a concern of mine. Ten years ago, the thought of sharing my personal information online was unfathomable. But then came the rise of social media and Facebook, a place where you could find people and all their information because it had been supplied, willingly, by the users themselves. At first, Facebook seemed scary but eventually it intrigued me, and now, I find myself logging in at least once every few days. For me, I was willing to hand over my personal information in order to stay in touch with friends and family around the world, sharing videos and photos, sending messages, and so forth. What this demonstrates is that there is the potential to get users such as myself, who are concerned with privacy, to start using social media. The key, is making it worthwhile. Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, or my blog, I will engage with select forms of social media because it adds value. This however, is not the case for Foursquare, an application that “helps you and your friends make the most of where you are,” at least not for me.

After using Foursquare for the past week, I can certainly see some of the perks: it’s fun, easy to use, and mobile. You can add your friends, and compete for mayorships. You can check-in anywhere, anytime, using your Android or iPhone. You can sign-in using your Facebook profile, link it to your Twitter account, follow through Google+, and all of this synchronizes your social media interactions while improving your overall Klout score. So yes, I can see why people like Foursquare. But what I don’t understand, and perhaps, this comes from my limited use of the application, is what happens after the novelty wears off? What does Foursquare adds to the social web and public relations that other platforms can’t? Beyond a marketing function, how does Foursquare benefit both the user or the organization?

Re-focusing this conversation from a public relations stand-point, as a business or organization, in what context would I choose to use Foursquare as a communications tool? What can this program offer to the organization other than another arena for discussion? And though the financial cost of adding Foursquare to an existing social media program wouldn’t be particularly expensive, what is the value in doing so?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not writing Foursquare off completely. There is a novel premise behind this application and with 25 million users worldwide, there’s certainly interest. However, I think there’s room for change and refinement but until then, I don’t think I’ll be signing back in any time soon.
What are your thoughts? As always, I’d love to hear your feedback.

4 thoughts on “Foursquare and its role in public relations

  1. thinkingaboutsocialmedia says:

    I’ve never used Foursquare myself, but I agree – I would have some initial reservations of information privacy as well. It would be interesting to test it out though, but you bring up a good point that the social media tools you choose for a PR program need to have a significant “so what” factor. It definitely needs to have direction and purpose in order for it to benefit your organization.

  2. Laura Dolman says:

    I really enjoyed reading your thoughts as a first time user of Foursquare. I’ve been using the program for over a year and enjoy it more so on a personal basis than I work one. I totally agree with your thoughts in terms of the ‘novelty” of the program.

    I’ve had conversations with friends over dinner who’ve recently exclaimed “Foursquare is so over, Facebook does the exact same thing now”. So I think you’re right in asking what’s next?

  3. yvonnekli says:

    Hi everyone,
    Thanks for your feedback!
    Since my initial posting, I’ve been thinking about whether I was too harsh with foursquare but the reality is, I still can’t figure out a time when I would choose this application over some of the other platforms out there. Restaurant and business recommendations? Yelp can help with that- and you don’t have to sign-up (though you can). Promos or specials? Facebook pages or Twitter does the job.
    For communications specialists, they might still want to consider foursquare because when it comes down to it, they (foursquare) have 25 million users and that’s a a big audience. But beyond that, the reasons for considering it as part of any public relations plan seems somewhat limited to me.

  4. veronica says:

    I have similar feelings toward personal use of Foursquare. I am still trying to convince myself that it is a worthwhile and adds value to my personal brand but I think for organizations it can become a worth while tool depending on the nature of the brand. I do think the platform can create/build brand loyalty, open lines of communication for feedback from your consumer base and also provides some worthy analytics.

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