Is Sport Ready For Foursquare?

Geo-location platforms such as Foursquare and Gowolla have been much hyped and talked about over recent months but is the new social networking technology going to take off here in the UK?

A Forrester report that I found courtesy of a recent post by @dmfreedom (aka David Fuller) on this very subject contests the hype and suggests there is still a long way to before we are all checking (if ever).  The US is where it began and would expect the take up to be the highest but…

  • 96% of US online adults have never used a location based mobile app
  • Of those that do 99% don’t update more than once a week
  • Only 16% of respondents had ever heard of such apps (Foursquare, Gowolla, Loopt, etc)

 Whether Foursquare, Gowalla and the like are going to succeed in making the jump for its popularity to be up there with Twitter is certainly not a given. 

The idea behind these platforms is to bring online experiences to the real world, blurring the boundaries a little, by using the GPS capabilities on your mobile phone.  You can check in, leave tips, access badges and notify friends of your location by ‘push-notifications’ via Twitter and Facebook.

Businesses around the world have been working it out for themselves with varying results.  We know that there is a massive opportunity for smaller businesses especially restaurants, bars, coffee shops and the like and it can work for bigger organisations as well.  The rewarding of the ‘mayor’ is the most basic of those possible and creates basic competition to check in more times than anyone else to claim it.

I have been using it on my Blackberry and I find myself either forgetting to check in or not having a signal when I do remember.  I’ve yet to find a venue that offers any rewards to its Foursquare visitors so have I seen any benefit from it?  No, not yet.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel that it be of great benefit within a business strategy but so far we have a small, scattered approach to its use.  The opportunity to reward your most loyal customers, encourage people to visit you more often and make a visit a more engaging and worthwhile experience is one that really can work for you.

You have to remember that mobile location apps are still small in terms of reach.  Around 1.5m people are on Foursquare and a few hundred thousand on Gowalla globally.  I have not seen the figure for UK usage but it won’t be large (if anyone has it then do let me know, be interesting to see).

But to get people using it they need reason to do so.  If they gain benefits from coming to your business, stadium or event then of course they will download the app and start using it.  It needs to be integrated, as all social media efforts do, to other marketing areas so that you build awareness.  Why would you run a Foursquare promotion without telling anybody?  Make it visible and make it easy.

Sport has been slower on the uptake as the benefits are still being figured out.  Again the US has taken the lead in making it work for them by encouraging fans to check in at grounds and accessing offers.  CNN teamed up with Foursquare during the World Cup, an example of a major brand buying into the concept and testing new ground.

Umbro, shirt sponsor of Manchester City FC, decided to use this new platform at the City of Manchester stadium for the Spurs game on 5th May 2010.  The objective was to break the record for the most amount of check-ins at one venue which only stood at a few hundred prior to the game.

With 48,000 people coming to the stadium it was going to be easy… wasn’t it?  Well, all did not work out as planned.  By all counts the check-ins topped out at 148, some distance short of the record.

So what went wrong? 

It was certainly a good idea but with its minimal reach people probably just didn’t know about.  Was it advertised outside of Twitter and on a few websites?  Were there posters at the ground helping push the attempt?  I don’t think so.  A good case of right idea, wrong time.

There could be certainly a place for geo-location technology but sports organisations are only just getting to grips with Facebook and Twitter so I think we have some way left to go yet.

To muddy the waters somewhat more, the rumours are that Google is in talks with gaming companies about developing a social networking games platform.  That would set the cat amongst the pigeons and will certainly be designed to challenge the domination and reach of Facebook (what this space for more info).  It could once again see the landscape being changed.

Do you use it?  What do you think of it?  Is it the future of social networking in sport?

About author

Daniel McLaren
Daniel McLaren 820 posts

Dan is the Founder & CEO of Digital Sport. Can be found at sports industry events and heard every week on the Digital Sport Insider podcast. @DanielMcLaren

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