The person familiar with the matter said Foursquare is
developing these offerings in consultation with marketers that it
has worked with before and that have had a big presence on the
network. Previously, Foursquare has worked with brands including
Pepsi, Dunkin' Donuts, Whole Foods and RadioShack.
Walgreens Social-Media Director Adam Kmiec said he had been
briefed on Foursquare's nascent paid-media plans but hasn't
committed yet. Past Walgreens programs with Foursquare include the
company's pledge to donate a flu shot for every store check-in
(from either Facebook or Foursquare) and an exclusive partnership to embed barcodes that
users can unlock by checking in to a store and redeem for savings.
(The daily offer at launch was for a 50-cent Arizona Ice Tea.)
"As Foursquare rolls out its new paid-media platform, we'll
certainly be giving serious thought to how it would fit into our
commitment to bring social to a local level," Mr. Kmiec said.
Launched in 2009 at the South by Southwest Interactive
conference Foursquare became an eager partner of
brands such as Pepsi, Tasti
D-Lite, Bravo and Starbucks. It was a markedly different strategy
from other social-media starlets like Twitter and Tumblr that
steered clear of brands in their early days.
The startup, which recently topped 20 million users, has been using
those early partnerships as an opportunity to test and learn as it
gradually maps out an ad strategy.
Express has been Foursquare's most prominent and consistent
partner. It launched a program that enables AmEx members to sync
their cards with their Foursquare accounts to redeem savings by
checking in at locations, such as H&M and the Sports Authority.
But Foursquare doesn't get a cut of any of those purchases. AmEx
Sync also works on Facebook and Twitter.
Media organizations have been among the most avid partners of
Foursquare by doing content integrations. For instance, Time Out New York rolled out a
Foursquare-powered leaderboard to show the pecking order of
users seeking to complete a list of tips from its Best of New York
Foursquare declined to comment on its ad plans, but said in a
statement: "Over 750,000 businesses use Foursquare to engage with
their customers, and we're continually improving our offerings to
make the platform even more powerful for them. Our goal is to build
scalable self-service tools that enable businesses to draw in new
customers and retain and reward their most loyal ones, while also
enhancing the Foursquare experience for our 20,000,000-strong
But Foursquare doesn't have the mobile check-in market to
itself. Facebook has been urging national retailers to have a
strategy for their "places" pages for local stores, and last summer
it introduced "parent-child linking" to let brands administer those pages
centrally, which enabled them to set up check-in deals and
There are other signs that Facebook is ramping up its courtship
of national retailers. According to Rob Reed of MomentFeed, a
location-based marketing platform, the number of likes for the
places page seems to have grown exponentially over the past month,
which he attributes to a change in Facebook's search algorithms.
(For example, if you search for "Chipotle" on Facebook, local pages
will rise to the top instead of the main corporate page.)
While Facebook has the scale, Foursquare has engaged users. Mr.
Reed noted that Target , for instance, gets much more check-in
activity from Foursquare than from Facebook. He attributes that to
Facebook check-ins' tendency to be more event-driven and used by
people who want to memorialize a night out on their timeline.
Mr. Reed thinks the two companies could soon be more directly in
competition because of a recent development at Facebook: its
just-launched "offers," which can be published to places pages and
also be targeted as an ad. Offers can also be redeemed with a
"It's definitely going to compete head-to-head with Foursquare
because the offer itself is free [for brands]," Mr. Reed said.
Foursquare has raised $71.4 million, including a $50-million
round last June.