09/20/2010 03:06 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Foursquare Teases New Focus at the Business Development Institute

As an early adapter of Loopt, it comes as little surprise that location-based social networking services like Gowalla and foursquare have peaked the interest of a growing number of tech-savvy consumers and consequently marketers. Following my friends, their suggestions and up-to-the-minute location updates seemed like the ultimate virtual board game then, which neatly played out on my shiny iPhone. Today, jockeying for "mayor" is as on-trend as military and lace at M-B Fashion Week.

Since my days on Loopt, there's been a growing list of mobile devices and emerging social media platforms that continually represent increased conduits for consumers to exercise influence over their networks and within their communities, both on and off line. Corporations are acutely aware of the success of geolocation-based services, and they are experimenting with how they might be leveraged for increased revenue and brand loyalty.

Although the caloric intake alone would keep me miles apart from any of its locations, on April 16, 2010, the world's largest restaurant chain, McDonald's, participated in Foursquare Day, leading to increased engagement and revenue through deals for check-ins at participating locations. More recently, 80s Americana retail darling, the GAP, teamed with foursquare, offering 25% off to eager users of the same service. This campaign was also executed across Twitter and Facebook. However, I'd like to see the same enthusiastic experimentation applied to Piperlime, the smaller yet chic sibling of Fisher's legacy.

Aside from garnering media coverage for both McDonald's and the GAP, these early experiments serve as case studies in the Best Practices category of location-based social media campaigns. What they've done well is offer incentives to consumers to engage them and drive positive fiscal results. With these types of campaigns populating the social media space, public relations and marketing professionals are constantly seeking differentiators. Yesterday, members of my firm's FirstWordDigital team attended the Business Development Institute Mobile Communications event, where Naveen Selvadurai, co-founder of foursquare, teased that there would be announcements this week around:

* A major effort with select universities, to be unveiled today (as of the submission of this post, the announcement had not yet been made)
* foursquare 2.0, which will emphasize sharing, recommendations and the addition of foursquare "experts," based on check-ins

While we continually refresh our RSS feeds in anticipation, the news has not yet broken. Still, I expect that the focus on "social sharing" and "experts" from foursquare, will be integrated in the new holiday advertising campaign that was announced this week, between the GAP and foursquare. It seems that the love fest between the two companies will lead the GAP to make a donation to CampInteractive, a nonprofit that works with inner-city youth, for foursquare's participation. The GAP's recent focus on "young professionals" in their advertising is very complimentary to foursquare's foray into academia too.

As reported, foursquare recently surpassed the three million user mark, making it increasingly desirable for marketers as a platform. Although the decision of the GAP and other companies to experiment with location-based services is a smart one, it's important not to forget the adage: What's in it for me (the consumer)?