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Businesses should pay attention to Foursquare today

Looking for a dinner deal tonight? More than 40 South Florida businesses are giving deals today to tech geeks in honor of Foursquare Day. Use the Foursquare program at participating stores and restaurants, and you might get some perks.

Foursquare Day was an idea cooked up by a fan of the Foursquare application, which is a location-based-social-network-game-thing used on phones and shared with friends on Facebook and Twitter. Much like how Pi (3.14) has Pi Day on March 14th, a Tampa man thought Foursquare Day should be April 16th (4²=16). 

And it wasn't long until his idea spread to fans in other large cities. But before I explain the Foursquare Day deals, here's how the Foursquare application works:

  • You download the Foursquare application to your cellphone, or if your phone doesn't use apps, then use text messages to participate.
  • When you arrive at a restaurant, mall, gym, grocery store, place of work -- anywhere -- just go into the application and "check in" by saying you arrived. You can also make comments about the place.
  • You can sync it with all your connections on Twitter and Facebook and see where your friends are hanging out.
  • The competitive part is seeing who can check into the same location the most times -- and then they rack up points and badges for bragging rights.

There's been lots written about Foursquare being dangerous for privacy reasons (it's easy to stalk or rob you when you're always saying where you are). Some hate it for other reasons. When Foursquare users post on Facebook every time they've checked into an area, it feels either like they are bragging, or simply put, a loser. (When you check in at the Taco Bell near your house every other night, it just looks sad.)

But Foursquare promotes it as a way to discover new places to eat, shop, etc. based on what your friends say they are doing.

Here's where the Foursquare Day part comes in. Some businesses are getting in on the game by saying if you "check in" on Foursquare today at their establishment during a certain time, you can get a deal.

Foursquare encourages businesses to pay attention to Foursquare to reward customers who visit often.

For example, the Pizza Fusion chain gives a free topping for anyone who checks in while there, and if you earn enough check in points to become a "mayor" of that area, you get a free bottle of organic wine. But on Foursquare Day, it kicked the freebies up a notch with a free pizza when you purchase a tea.

A day like today is to help draw more awareness of the application. Businesses who are participating are hoping that all the tweets and Facebook posts about people "checking in" to their establishment will help bring more awareness to their company.

Although most participants are small businesses, McDonald's is one major chain that is participating at a large level. If you check into a McDonald's today until 7 p.m., and if the McDonald's Twitter account notices the check in, you'll get a coupon for a free lunch.

Here's a list of some deals and participating companies in South Florida.

But if you're a business owner who isn't using Foursquare, I'd at least monitor it today to see what is being said about your brand, and how many people are using the application to check in today. It might give you a sense of how popular it is with your clients, and if you should consider participating in it to get more people interested in your product.

It goes without saying that most people have no idea what Foursquare is. I don't know anyone in my circle of friends or relatives that uses it. One person in my company has "checked in" to The Miami Herald. Most folks I know who use it are the local tech geeks I follow on Twitter.

It's an interesting experiment for businesses to try, but at the end of the day, is it worth your time if not many people use the application? What do you think?

But if you do decide to use Foursquare, don't lie about your location. Or else...

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