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To check-in or not to check-in? That is the question

You’d have to be holed up in an igloo in the middle of Antarctica not to have even heard the word foursquare being banded around the pub, social media landscape or your office. logoThumbDespite being just over a year old, the location-based social media network is already being hailed as the biggest thing since the last loaf of slice bread commonly referred to as Twitter. The UK edition of Wired recently had co-founder Dennis Crowley on the front of its mag, crowning him the King of Social Media – but is this just a fuss about nothing and do brands really need to engage with it? Rather than just sharing news, information, pictures and videos, foursquare is dragging social media to the streets allowing users to share their location with their network. By ‘checking-in’ to various locations users earns badges and can increase their status, so much so to become a ‘mayor’ of a check-in point. But of what use is this to brands? Well, like any social media network sharing information, and this time regarding locations, becomes a vital new channel for brands to virally spread the word about their business. You only have to compare the cost of one person with 1000 friends to check-in to Café de Paris on the High Street and comment ‘they have the best coffee in town’ against a DM or regional PR campaign, to realise the potential the site has. Although foursquare is about being local, it’s how global brands embrace the platform that will be key. Starbucks has already embraced this new revolution by partnering with foursquare to offer its loyal customers rewards for checking-in at branches – it will only be so long before they actually do away with those plastic cards. Umbro has also stepped up its location-based marketing in its digital marketing strategy, when it recently offered the chance for 48,000 football fans attending a Manchester City game the chance to ‘check-in’ at the City of Manchester stadium to be in with a chance of winning a prize. The danger of course is whether consumer actually engage with it, as foursquare will mean another set of social media login details and another app for their smartphone. But with integration with the likes of Facebook and Twitter, foursquare feels like it completes the set. Whilst it may have some doubters, like Twitter and Facebook did when they launched, foursquare can’t be ignored for anyone devising a social media strategy for a client. Likewise, it won’t be ignored by the global media players looking to gobble up the next big thing into their company. However, due to the self-confession that they are not making money and are not focussed on profitability (yet), a buyout seems a long way off leaving them to develop and grow the network with users top priority. As more and more big brands jump on board the check-in train, foursquare is only set to get even bigger, and with currently one million location check-ins a day it’s no wonder Dennis Crowley is being given the proverbial keys to the social media kingdom. To answer my original question – it’s time to check-in.