Foursquare Advertising

In our article Foursquare for Business, we already discussed the possibilities of using Foursquare as a local marketing tool. On 14 October 2013 Foursquare advertising (also know as Foursquare ads) was launched officially worldwide. As of now, local business can start advertising on Foursquare. Up till 10 days ago this was only available in Bèta and you had to sign up to get on the list. But how do you start and what are the possibilities? Let us give you a quick overview.

What formats are there? Where do they appear?

In the past months, Foursquare has tested several ad formats in bèta with a limited set of small business’. If you have visited the US lately, you may have come across a couple. The formats may not always seem to differ a lot. That is why we try to give you an overview below. For now it seems that to start Foursquare advertising only offers one format: Promoted Updates.

Promoted updates

Promoted updates will only appear once the user opens the “Explore tab”. This is a part of the application, where Foursquare recommends you places to go to, based upon on your Foursquare check in history. It seems to be working quite similar to Google algorithms. A search query corresponds with an intention and based upon your search history Google will try and provide you with the most relevant result. That is the function of the “Explore tab” in Foursquare, it has been developed to help you discover new places based upon your checkin profile. So open the “explore tab” and Foursquare provide relevant suggestions.

Foursquare advertising - Promoted Updates

Promoted Specials – bèta

Promoted specials have, as far as we can tell, on run in bèta in the US. They are not available (yet) as a self-service ad format. The interesting part about promoted specials is that it seems that you can target these on searches within the “explore tab” and this identical to Google! Except for the fact that in this case you are looking for suggestions that are tailored to your check in behavior. The application also provides suggestion for misspellings. 

Foursquare Advertising Promoted Specials

What remains to be seen is when this format would be available. It is crystal clear though that Foursquare will not allow to advertise on brand names of competitors.

It is actually quite amazing that Google or Facebook still have not acquired Foursquare. It seems that there have been talks with both companies but they have not let to any approach up till now. The future will tells is more. In our opinion, Foursquare advertising would be a very good match to Google if it could be integrated into Adwords and combined with Google+. It’s somehow similar to Google Offers.

Post Check in ads – bèta

Another interesting format which has also runs in bèta, is the post-checkin ad. This format appears on your screen after you have checked in to a place. Foursquare crunches data of all its users to find check in patterns and target groups. Based upon these data sets they can targets ad on a sequel of check in for example a shoe store and a coffee shop. So they might show an ad for Starbucks to people checking in a shoe store in the near. The use can choose to use the offer directly or save it and use it later. This is a very powerful way of putting your business under to attention of potential customers.

Foursquare Advertising - Post Checkin Ad

What are the rules?

As with each platform rules for advertising apply and so it is for Foursquare advertising. An important point to remember is that personal characteristics of users such as for example age, sex, ethnic origin or religion can never be referred to in a direct or indirect way. Foursquare highly values the user trust and does wish to damage their relationship.

Ads that refer to external sites, must refer to good functioning landing pages (preferably mobile ready) and must allow users to easily navigate off the page to somewhere else. It’s not allowed to changes URLS during the launch of campaigns.

And of course you cannot advertise for all types of products. Foursquare advertising does not allow advertising for alcohol, drugs, tobacco, gambling, software and logically weapons or explosives.

What do I pay and when will I be charged ?

Foursquare advertising only offer one option for payment and that is credit card. If you want to start up a campaign, the minimum investment is 50 $ a month (equal to 36 Euro). The advertising system however is limited in terms of management of the maximum cost per action. Minimum bids are set at 1 dollar or 0,73 Eurocent and can be increased on a fixed scale which is not ideal.

For promoted products (updates and specials) the costs Foursquare charges, is a cost per action. So you are charged the bid once a user taps anywhere on your ad or if the user checks into one of the locations your are advertising for on your account within 72 hours. Now that’s performance based for you, if you ask us!

Can I start?

Yes….But! Personally we think the platform is still quite new. It still needs to be developed to facilitate easy campaign management. In the current set up, we have not discovered targeting criteria to target your campaign, so it’s not quite clear where your ad will appear and if you as marketer find that relevant for your target audience. Online marketers with a background in auction based advertising such as Adwords, Facebook or even LinkedIn ads, will notice that there is much work to be done. That’s why we think you may want to wait a bit to see how things turn out. And if you want to start, contact an agency with experience.