I’ve been using Foursquare now for a better part of a year and in that time, I’ve managed to check in about 1300 times, hold 15 mayorships, and collect 24 different badges. Despite the many annoyances I find with Foursquare – inaccurate geo-location, slow, buggy, and crash-prone app, and poor data integrity (there were 4 different listings for the same Sofitel Hotel I checked in at yesterday), I still find myself wanting to check in wherever I go. Sure, part of my job is to play around with and understand new sites and technologies, especially how they might pertain to the legal industry, but the primary reason that I continue to use Foursquare is simply because it is fun and the drive to uphold my mayorships and get new ones is strong. From a purely practical perspective though, I don’t think I’ve gotten any value out of using Foursquare.
The big promise of Foursquare and other location-based networking services is the ability to local businesses to advertise to mobile customers who check in to their venue. Seems great in theory and a number of top tier VCs have backed Foursquare to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. So how well does Foursquare marketing actually work? I have one data point from this past weekend when I stopped by a well-regarded local wine shop. As I was checking in, I noticed they were offering a Foursquare “Special,” a free spot in one of their wine classes after the 3rd time checking in. Classes at this shop typically sell for $50, so overall a pretty good promotion considering the value offered and low barrier to actually attaining it. I was very curious how effective Foursquare marketing was for them so I quickly struck up a conversation. This wine shop had been advertising through Foursquare for nearly a year. Each weekend, about 20-30 people checked in but a good number of these were “drive-by” check ins i.e. checking in at a venue when you are not actually there. All told, only 6-7 people in the year have ever come in to redeem their special at this wine shop, not exactly inspiring numbers for the hype Foursquare has been getting.
If Foursquare marketing can’t even drive additional business for booze, I’d be hard pressed to believe it can do it for law firms. Will it someday? Perhaps, and that may be reason enough for lawyers to be trying it out. That and so they can become mayor of their law firm and tell that to the managing partner!