Business Marketing

Location-Based Marketing: Insights From SxSW

It was when I first attended SxSW1 in 2011 that I got excited about Foursquare and the potential of location-based marketing. And having seen the founder and CEO of Foursquare, Denis Crowley, speak again in 2013 at SxSW I became even more excited.

What is Location-Based Marketing?

In essence, it’s marketing to potential customers as they are in close vicinity of your shop, restaurant or venue. It’s marketing to them when they’re looking for your product or service when they’re near you.

If you’ve ever ‘checked-in’ on Facebook you’ve participated in the consumer-side of location-based marketing … if you’ve set up a good ‘Places’ page on Facebook you obviously understand the benefits. But where it’s going in the future, particularly with a specific location-based platform like Foursquare … well, it’s too exciting.

What’s Coming?

Imagine for a moment you’re in a city you’re not familiar with. And, imagine you’re looking for a good coffee shop to get your first hit of caffeine for the day. If you’re anything like me just ‘any’ cup of coffee won’t do … you want to know you’re going to get a good cup of coffee, preferably with a good atmosphere and great service. Right now, you could use a platform like Foursquare and use the ‘explore’ feature to find nearby coffee shops, complete with recommendations and reviews from other Foursquare users, and perhaps even your friends.

In the future though, platforms like Foursquare will be more proactive. As you walk down the street your phone may buzz and let you know there is a great new coffee shop nearby that a few of your friends have already recommended … or if you have a history of checking-in to wine bars, you may get a notification that a group of friends are nearby enjoying a couple of drinks.

As wearable devices hit the market, such notifications and alerts will just be part of the user-experience. If Foursquare knows you’re a history buff it might let you know about historical buildings or interesting facts as you walk past … if you’re a photography nut you may be alerted to popular scenic spots based on recommendations from other photographers. Or, if there’s a crowd forming in a particular area due to a special event, you may get notified so you can choose whether to join in or avoid the area.

Crowley described Foursquare as the Harry Potter map … it comes to life with relevant information about what others are doing nearby. From a user-perspective I find that incredibly exciting. From a marketing perspective I find it even more exciting.

Marketing Your Business

So what do you need to do now to be ready for this exciting, ambient-location future?

  1. Make sure you’ve claimed all your ‘location’ pages on the relevant social networks. Facebook, Google+, Foursquare are the tops ones right now. Keep your eye on Yelp too.
  2. Start posting to those location pages – specials, loyalty-based rewards etc.
  3. Keep posting relevant, ‘on-messages’ to your main social media profiles – the more customer engagement you build now, the more credibility you’ll have as people look for recommendations.

The very clear message from Crowley was that Foursquare is not going anywhere. While platforms like Facebook ‘try’ to provide relevant localized search information, Foursquare still have the most amount of data points … and … localized search is its core business, its sole focus. While Australia has been (disappointingly) slow to harness the full power of Foursquare, I think that’s going to change … and Facebook will be more of a social tool … not a local search tool.

Some quick Foursquare stats:

  • Foursquare has 30-million users worldwide
  • 60 percent of those users are outside of the U.S.
  • Japan, Europe, SE Asia, Russia and Brazil are all big users of Foursquare (Australia next?)

In short, imagine a way of remembering all the recommendations you’ve ever received, or reviews you’ve ever read, when you’re ‘there’, near the venue or precinct in question. That’s what Foursquare is. A very powerful way of finding what you want … and keeping track of the places you want to check out.


[1] SxSW, or South by South West, is an annual festival celebrating and showcasing the latest in film, music and interactive technologies. The Interactive component is “… an incubator of cutting-edge technologies and digital creativity” conducted over five days through keynote and feature sessions, book-readings, panel discussions, meetups and core conversations.


About the author


Simon Dell

Simon Dell is a former agency owner and managing director, and is now a freelance consultant under his own brand His goal is to help develop and implement strategic digital and creative marketing plans for clients delivering measurable results and fantastic ROI. He also writes for Fairfax Media, MYOB's business portal and frequently speaks at events and conferences around Australia.