How Businesses Can Forge (Much-Coveted) Brand Partnerships With Foursquare

Foursquare gets hundreds, if not thousands, of brand requests every week. Here’s how to forge a partnership with the in-demand service, and to reach customers who might get lost in the shuffle on Facebook or Twitter.

How Businesses Can Forge (Much-Coveted) Brand Partnerships With Foursquare


Foursquare has just reached a milestone: 500,000 businesses are now on the social network. To be one of them, however, it might take more than just a brand page to stand out in the crowd.

Last week, at Bryant Park’s Breakfast Briefings series, Foursquare’s director of business development for media and entertainment Jonathan Crowley took to the stage to discuss the benefits of Foursquare’s brand-partnership platforms. The popular check-in service recently hit 10 million users, and raised $50 million at a reported valuation of $600 million, all but cementing Foursquare as an essential voice in social media for merchants and media partners. And as Crowley explained, Foursquare has a big leg up over competitors such as Twitter and Facebook, despite have only a fraction of their users.

“The biggest advantage of Foursquare is that it’s location-based–there’s no other way for a media partner to reach their audience in such a unique way. Take Twitter, for example. Twitter is pretty noisy. You might have hundreds or thousands of followers, and none of it is location-specific,” Crowley said. “Foursquare is much more personal of a service. I’m sure all of you have Facebook. Maybe you have 500 friends, or maybe some of you have a thousand friends. On Twitter, you can have a couple thousand followers. On Foursquare, it’s a smaller social graph.”

For brands, that smaller social graph is especially valuable. “It goes back to noise. If an average user has, I’ll hypothetically say 30 friends on Foursquare,” Crowley said, “[then] brands are only competing with, say, 30 people. There is a higher probability of that brand getting more of your mind-share when you’re checking in.”

But given the number of brands suddenly clamoring for media partnerships with Foursquare, it can be a challenge for businesses to get on Foursquare’s radar. Crowley said that roughly 90% of media-partnership requests are now in-bound, rather than Foursquare seeking out potential advertisers. “It’s difficult to quantify how many requests we get–we sort of live in our inbox,” he said. “I would guess that we have hundreds if not thousands of brand requests every single week.”

With just a handful of people making up Foursquare’s biz-dev team, brands need to work extra hard to stand out in Crowley’s inbox. “I had a drink with a coworker the other night, and I was saying, ‘There has to be a better way of handling this.’ And he said, ‘Two words: brutally prioritize,'” Crowley recalled. “To be very candid,
there was a time, when Foursquare was smaller, where we were hearing from people, ‘You can’t get to Foursquare–they are very difficult to get a hold of.’ It wasn’t a lack of interest–we could sit there and just watch the inbox go boom, boom, boom–all the emails coming in. We can usually get back to every single request within about a week.”


Crowley has a few recommendations for brands that want to rise above the overstuffed inbox. “What I look for in media partnerships are two big things,” he explained. “One is, what is going to have the biggest reach? Who is going to have the biggest impact? Because we’re still trying to grow our brand. So every day when I look at possible media partnerships, I say to myself, is this going to net us another 50,000 users? 100,000 users? Is this going to reach a demographic that we’re not working with right now?” Creating exposure for the Foursquare brand is more valuable to him than generating revenue from possible partnership deals.

“The second thing is, what can they create for users? Can they actually create value?” he added. Crowley cited the Bravo TV channel, which has created value for users by leaving tips at tons of venues–and creating badges that have real-world impact. The promotion is mutually beneficial, helping to boost viewership and loyalty to shows such as Top Chef while adding value to the user experience.

Crowley also offered the audience a few no-no’s when pitching the company. First, Foursquare does not work with alcohol brands or develop promotions around alcohol–they won’t do so until they have proper age data. Second, “in terms of media partnerships, I think the question that we get a lot–that people always ask is, ‘Hey, I want people to check in to my TV show,'” Crowley said. “It’s just not what we’re doing now. You see companies like GetGlue and IntoNow, which was just acquired by Yahoo–[but] that’s not what Foursquare is about. We’re really trying to own location.”

(Foursquare is, of course, not against partnering with TV stations–just look to partnerships with MTV, the History Channel, and, yes, Bravo.)

Feel free to check in with Foursquare’s partnership team anytime here.


[Image: Flickr user Close to Home]

About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.