Foursquare is Shopping for Advertisers

We’ve seen it time and again, and again, and again. Social networks start treading water and desperately cling to ad monies to stay afloat. Enter Foursquare, the latest app to plead with advertisers for partnerships.

Wanted: current client with identifiable planning target, existing creative and brand objective goals established, budget of $50-75K, mutually share campaign learnings.

That’s exactly what they put in a leaked document acquired by Valleywag yesterday. Foursquare wants to help answer the question, “How can we access all the data that you have?” a question that regularly gets retailers – online or otherwise – into trouble when they start selling user data.

With check-in retargeting, advertisers will first collect user data and paint pictures of the day-to-day lives of multiple demographics, then track down the same users on other online platforms other than Foursquare and hit them with a dose of carefully chosen ads that suit their lifestyle. Thank you retargeting pixels.

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Knowing what your users do online is so last season. Anyone can track user experience with more analytics than they know what to do with. The new info to chase down is offline user data, which is exactly what Foursquare is tapping into. Person X is between the ages of 25-54 and checked into two airports this month, he or she must be a business traveler. Person Y is 35 and checked into an elementary school, a grocery store, and a soccer field, they must be a parent. Let’s tailor their ads accordingly.

But wait, there’s more. Foursquare is also launching post check-in ads. These cost-per-click ads will block the screen as a pop-up when users hit the Check-in Here button. Foursquare gives an example below of a user checking into a bar and receiving an ad for vodka.

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People who check into grocery stores will see ads for pop-tarts and those who check into malls will see an ad for Sears or JC Penny. As you can see with these examples, Foursquare is taking the “local” out of geolocation apps by using national brands that anyone can relate with. These are also the only brands large enough to afford the ads.

The main requirement for their post check-in ads (coming to your app in June!) is a strong call to action from brands in order to accurately measure analytics. The key to success behind Foursquare advertising is the continuous collection of data. The algorithms will have to log every check-in to build demographic profiles as well as every click and successful conversion to see if their ads are working and justify the spending to clients. In the case of Foursquare, you can never have too much data.

Last month Foursquare made a big stink about competing with Yelp as source for all things local and search – not just checking in. Is the app selling out on its vision for the sake of actual revenue? Or is it just grasping at straws in desperate attempts to make money?

About the author

Amanda Dodge