Years after talking up the check-in, Foursquare is asking SMBs to check out its new Foursquare Ads program which was beta-tested with about 1,000 businesses.
In a blog post, Foursquare wrote up the offering this way:
“Today, we’re opening Foursquare Ads to all small businesses around the world. We’re moving past the days when business owners have to figure out if a “like” or a ‘click’ has any meaning in the real world; now they can tell if someone who saw their ad actually walks into their store. We built this to be simple and flexible, learning from our four years of data and relationships with over 1.5 million claimed businesses.”
To create an ad, the business owner goes to foursquare.com/ads, chooses a photo of their space and offers a special or what Foursquare says is a great customer tip (if you and I don't know what that means, can we expect the business owner to know?). Then they set their monthly budget and push their ad live for people nearby to see.
Merchants can monitor how many people have viewed their ad, how many have tapped on it, and how many actually came into their store.
Says longtime industry analyst Greg Sterling:
“Anyone familiar with the online SMB market will know that self-service has historically seen limited success as a tool for mass SMB advertiser acquisition,” Sterling wrote on his blog.
Foursquare’s description of the ease of its business fails to take into account that the business owner has maybe 8,000 things to do in a day. Getting before a computer to set up and/or monitor an ad makes it 8,001.
In my position as CMO of Mobivity, I see and hear from SMBs of the desire for coaches and in many cases, someone to handle the setup, distribution of marketing messages, and the monitoring for them. We address that in our SMS and mobile loyalty Stampt products and services where customers aren’t put on an island and asked to not only survive but thrive.
Another challenge Foursquare faces is the unproven model. SMBs have other options, including spending against and monetizing permission-based SMS mobile VIP clubs. Expect SMBs to be slow on the Foursquare uptake until and unless they see real results that they are convinced are repeatable in their situations.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program http://Goo.gl/t3fgW, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.