04/14/2011 12:40 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Foursquare: A Branding Tool?

Where is the value in foursquare as a mobile PR and branding channel? If you look beyond the check-in, you may garner some "tips."

Like Facebook, Twitter and Myspace before it, foursquare has reached the requisite level of mainstream membership for it to be viewed as an important social media marketing tool. No longer utilized merely as a location-based social game for individuals, with approximately 4 million users, foursquare has emerged as a legitimate brand development tool when strategically optimized.

Our agency has been using foursquare as a channel for building brand awareness and increasing visibility since its inception leveraging features like "Check-Ins," "Badges," "Tips" and "Venue Partners." The popular location-based mobile social gaming applications' "Tips" feature is quickly proving to be a useful branding tool.

We operate under a basic premise inherent in foursquare's application: when users check in to a venue listing on foursquare, they either receive a pop-up "tip" on their mobile device from one of their friends or they can view a list of tips left at that venue. The more friends act on the tip, the more popular that tip becomes and the higher up it appears in the general feed. The purpose of leaving a "Tip" is to suggest a good idea to friends. As a brand or personality, the obvious goal is to have your tip pop up for the most places, and for the most users, portraying your brand as an ambassador or aficionado of tips at locales around varying cities.

By identifying restaurants, boutiques, fitness facilities, music venues, etc. with which you want to associate your brand and leaving creative thoughtful tips at these spots, you are communicating to your friends your brand's distinct personality. As such, it is imperative that you have a definitive conception of your brand and how you want to portray it to the broader community. Upon developing this list of establishments, the tip becomes the tool through which you communicate with users.

This requires a thorough understanding of your brand's particular market position and audience combined with a clear, consistent voice present in each of your tips. A good tip is useful, unique and informative. In this sense, a tip isn't definitively a "what to do" suggestion ("order this") or a subjective comment ("they have nice décor"), but rather an intricate combination of each.

In leaving a tip, you are telling your audience that you associate with this location and then delineating the reason why. By approaching foursquare in this manner, you can leave tips that suggest an item or action (which portrays your brand as an expert) and provide additional social and cultural commentary (which distinguishes your brand in a positive light). Since users "Accept" or "Decline" to be your friend on foursquare, they are opting in for these pop-up tips that appear when they check in.

By strategically leaving tips in this manner, repeatedly targeting similar types of institutions, users will learn to associate your name with particular markets and, most importantly, come to personally identify with your brand. This is what makes foursquare such a unique tool for brand development, Mobile PR and community building. Brands and personalities can use this ideology to interact with users on an intimate level in order to directly communicate the particular image and personality with which they wish to be associated.