Foursquare and Political Corruption

December 2, 2009

I’ve been playing around with Fourquare (the location based social network).  It’s certainly fun.  The really interesting thing is the potential for local advertising.  Apparently, Foursquare is receiving tons of requests from local businesses (e.g., coffee shops, restaurants, etc.).

As I was “checking in” at Cafe’ Umbria, I received a special notice for Sahagun Chocolates (see screenshot below).  The Mayor (person who has checked in the most) receives a sundrop or americano drink when checking in).

I decided to drop by.  The owner confirmed that the Mayor (Jen, of the great food blog UnderTheTableWithJen) receives a free drink every time she checks in.

(Interestingly, Sahagun isn’t paying anything to advertise on Foursquare. The owner called and they “set it all up for her.”)

This type advertisement/offer is a little odd, of course given that it is only available to the Mayor.  An offer like this creates a strange incentive to simply check in each day (you don’t need to actually go to the store).  The Mayor, in this scenario, becomes permanent.  Do we need term limits? 🙂

Ultimately, when real world offers become associated with the competitive process baked into Foursquare, the incentive to cheat starts to become a factor.  Currently, in most cases, being Mayor of a location is simply fun (who really cares?).  Better offers might simply provide a first time customer discount (e.g., a free chocolate when you check in your first time).

Note (12/3): Since writing this, I’ve noticed a few other local merchant offers that make a bit more sense (e.g., discount after checking in four times).   There are great possibilities here.

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