For the first time in history there is a top ten list upon which Tampa and Beijing are mentioned in the same breath. Its the list of top participating cities celebrating Foursquare Day. And it all started when a mild-mannered optometrist from Westchase was thinking about new ways to use social media to promote his business, got an idea and rallied the entire world around it.
It started when Dr. Nate Bonilla-Warford (just call him Dr. Nate) was thinking about new ways to promote his business, wrote a few blog posts about it, a few tweets and now there are parties organizing all over the world. He was playing around with Foursquare, a social media application where users can check-in at stores, restaurants, bars, optometrists, etc. and comment about their experience. (Its another way people are sharing information about places they recommend.) Then Dr. Nate started thinking about the math. 4-squared. The 4th month, and the 4-squared day and thus the world is getting ready to celebrate Foursquare Day this Friday 4/16 and businesses all over the world can benefit and users and consumers can have fun with it.
It doesnt appeal to everyone, but there is enough geek pride on the internet its appealing, says Dr. Nate. And to reach those it does appeal to, business owners need to take notice. If your business wants to participate, all you have to do is post your Foursquare Day Special on the Web site (just be sure to read the instructions first) and voila! youre in. No financial investment required and youve got a free listing, advertising and PR. Hopefully you will attract new customers. Give them a great experience, something to talk about, and chances are they will comment about it on Foursquare, recommending your business to other users. Its all good for business.
Me: Who can participate in Foursquare Day?
Dr. Nate: Everyone is invited all Foursquare users, businesses and anyone else who is just curious and wants to learn more. Its a day for people who dont know what social media is but these swarms (events) are a free casual, low intensity way to interact with business owners who use it to benefit their lives. This kind of social, educational events arent available wide-scale. Anyone can come. Non-social media users can come. They might become a user. Its beyond Foursquare.
Me: How can businesses use it to develop customer loyalty?
Dr. Nate: Thank your customers. They come back enough and demonstrate loyalty you give them discounts and stuff. They appreciate it so you become a special place in their life. You are more on their radar if you didnt have that level of involvement. As a consumer, you feel a bond with that place!
Me: Why are consumers and businesses using Foursquare?
Dr. Nate: Its fun to check in as a consumer. But the reason I got on board and so have the others who are helping put this together is from business point of view We see an opportunity to promote ourselves and develop stronger relationships with patients and customers at no cost.
From a business owners perspective there is only so many ways you can market yourselves. Pour $$ into ads and get almost no return. Its so frustrating. But this is so simple. Its the simplicity of foursquare that is its strength.
Me: So, Tell me everything.
Dr. Nate: I didnt expect this to happen. Every single day since the beginning there would be a little step as more people became interested and involved. And now its getting really amazing. Mumbai. Jakarta. Seoul. Beijing. Today I even heard from foursquare and they were all excited this list has a 100 different cities on it!
Me: So, What does this mean for Tampa?
Dr. Nate: The fact we started it is good for Tampa. Its a positive story getting global attention and all eyes are on Tampa. People arent going to move here because we started it, but it gives people something to rally around. Tampa takes a leadership role in the social media universe. We are not the underdog in this realm!
Mayor Iorio has even formally proclaimed it Foursquare day! Thats interesting in and of itself.
Me: What trends do you notice in the businesses and cities who are participating?
Dr. Nate: Manchester, NH and North Andover, MA have huge #s of businesses signed up on it.
Its very interesting that mid-sized communities have embraced this more than anything else. Towns of 2-3k people nope. Big cities nope. Not a single event in San Diego. Theres one in L.A. and one in NY which is the people from foursquare themselves. But in smaller cities there are multiple swarms (events).
Coming out of recession and all businesses are looking for any angle to promote without any money to burn thats one angle why its so successful. It takes no financial investment on the part of the business owner they just say they are going to do it, and then the town gets excited.
I dont know why but thinking about it it has to do with the face those mid-sized communities are where people have balance between their real-life and social networks. Theres a feeling like, its my city and Im going to go to the extra effort for this to happen here. Whereas in Chicago, not so much. Mid-size cities people can just jump in and take ownership of it
Foursquare Day has gone from non-existent to cool event in less than a month. Larger corporations arent involved because they cant react that fast. Even if they know about it, want to make a decision they cant because to react would take too much effort. Big corporations want to sponsor some of the events, but their hands are tied becaue they cant respond with agility their structure is such there are too many steps along the way.
Smaller biz who make up mid-sized comm. Can take advantage of it . I call my wife, ask her what she thinks about me putting on a sale. Then I walk across the street and tell my neighbor he should do the same thing. Small businesses have the ability to take advantage of this whereas huge corporations cant. That reality plays a role in why certain communities have been able to get on board.
Me: Whats it been like putting Foursquare Day together?
Dr. Nate: This whole experience has been wild. An outrageous amount of work. On another level its so fast and so unknown. Ive gone from being someone whos enjoyed and appreciated social media to forging new ground its a totally different place to be. I havent had the time to try to read books on what to do when you are starting a global movement and how to deal with various situations, so were just making it up as we go along.
The reality is this is the most bare-bones skelton crew Ive ever been a part of. There are other events and projects Ive been involved in where people who volunteer its just a little part of their lives. But with Foursquare Day we know there is a deadline and weve all thrown ourselves into it.
Me: Why are other people so dedicated to making Foursquare Day happen?
Dr. Nate: Lots of different reasons.
Me: What can businesses learn from this?
Dr. Nate: Businesses can learn that you are not going to garner attention appealing to everyone. Get niche!!!
When I first started mulling over the idea of Foursquare Day, I wondered how many people could this realistically reach...
Me: Would you want to stop being an eye doctor and just do social media?
Dr. Nate: No way! I did it to promote my practice. Its a very different kind of lifestyle. I look forward to returning to my normal life. Soon. I have a lot of work to catch up on.
And last but not least, theres a party a.k.a swarm happening in downtown Tampa on Foursquare Day 4/16/10
6-9pm at the Hyatt Regency downtown located at 211 N. Tampa St.