Foursquare to Let Brands Talk to Users Who've Checked In Most

H&M and Outback Steakhouse Among Brands to Start Using the Tool This Week

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Foursquare will start letting businesses capitalize on the enthusiasm of customers who've checked in repeatedly by rolling out a way to message them, starting today.

Through the "local updates" tool, businesses can send their updates to a pool of users who will be picked by Foursquare's algorithm based on the frequency and recency of their check-ins and the businesses they've "liked" (a feature Foursquare made available with its redesign last month).

It could give the nearly 1 million businesses that have claimed their listing on Foursquare a stronger incentive to be active on the platform, since they can place messages about specials and events for free in the activity streams of users who've likely already spent money in their stores and had enough of an affinity to want to broadcast their visit to friends.

"Now with local updates, it's hopefully a tool that merchants engage with every day," said Noah Weiss, the Foursquare product manager who oversees all merchant-facing tools, who noted that users will also have the ability to opt out of receiving updates from a business.

Some brands and organizations that will start using the functionality at launch this week are H&M, Outback Steakhouse, Wolfgang Puck, Luke's Lobster, the New York Public Library and the NYC Parks Department. Users will also only see updates from businesses when they're in the same city or a somewhat broader area if they're in the suburbs. In the case of brands with multiple locations, messages like the announcement of a Labor Day sale or the release of the latest "Twilight" series film DVD would be pushed out from the closest store.

The tool has the potential to give brands a reason to actively manage Foursquare -- which had lacked a CRM component -- that they didn't have before, according to Rob Reed, founder of the location-based marketing platform MomentFeed, which has clients such as Cinnabon and Chili's.

"Specials previously had been a pull channel on Foursquare, and now they have some push capability," said Mr. Reed, who also noted that local updates could also give brands a channel to broadcast the best of user-submitted photos on the platform. "For us, it's going to unlock a lot of the value that customers are taking and attaching to venues; you can take the best and push it out as an update."

Meanwhile, Foursquare is still gearing up to launch paid tools for merchants, which Ad Age first reported in April. One product will show offers via paid ads when users search for local specials on Foursquare, and those promoted placements will be targeted using the same algorithms that power the "explore" tab, which recommends venues based on users' check-in histories, as well as check-ins by friends and the wider Foursquare user base.

A person close to Foursquare says the company is now eyeing a launch at the end of this month.

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