Yesterday was my two year anniversary on Foursquare.
Two years in, I'm a "Level 1" Superuser, I've accumulated 2230 check-ins, 59 badges and my seven day high for points is 285. I currently hold five mayorships, at prestigious places like my local Starbucks and bank, and a couple random places I've only visited two or three times (perhaps underscoring that I'm the only person to have ever checked-in there). I lost the mayorship at my dry cleaner a couple weeks ago, which, as you can imagine, was pretty upsetting.
Two years in, I've realized I've never once received a tangible benefit from using Foursquare.
On its homepage, Foursquare lays out its key benefits:
- Keep up with friends
- Discover what's nearby
- Save money and unlock rewards
Sounds good, right? Unfortunately, two years in, even as a regular user with 186 "connections" (94 "friends," 92 "brands") on the app, I really haven't seen any of these come to fruition.
Sure, I can scroll through my list of friends to see where they've checked-in recently, but I've yet to see a friend's check-in that caused me to go meet them someplace. Sure, I might read "Sally is @ Ray's Hell Burger" and think to myself that I too should go there soon for one of Ray's famous burgers, but I wouldn't stop what I was doing to go find Sally there. And in my experience, Foursquare is nowhere near as powerful as Facebook or Twitter for keeping up with my friends (including knowing where they are). If I'm at a conference, it's pseudo-interesting to see if anyone I'm connected to is also there, but truthfully I'd rather use the conference hashtag on Twitter to see who's there and have viable conversations with other attendees.
I've also never "discovered" a new place nearby because of Foursquare. If I'm in a new city or looking for a new place to go, I still fall back on Google Maps (searching for things like "restaurants near [insert location]"), Yelp, or other local review sites to help me find new places. And going back to a place like Ray's Hell Burger, if I really want to know which burger people recommend as best, I'll again go to Yelp or check out a food critic's opinion before I even think to scroll through tips on Foursquare.
All that aside, saving money and unlocking rewards sounds like it should be the best part of Foursquare! Foursquare even has a robust Merchant Platform that makes it simple for businesses to offer specials. According to Foursquare, some of their most successful merchant promotions include:
- A discount with purchase (something like, 'spend $50 and get $10 off'). A great way to push your sales higher.
- Something for free (for example, 'enjoy a free dessert if you buy an appetizer and main course'). These are often low cost and high impact.
- Special treatment (one of our favorites at a zoo: 'check in on foursquare for private access to the penguin feeding'). These have no cost and create a great connection.
- Reward your best customers (the classic Special is, "free coffee on your fifth visit'). It's like a digital punchcard.
These all sound great. But from the user point of view, obtaining these benefits isn't exactly easy. Easily, 90 percent of the time I've tried to cash in a Foursquare special offer, the employees on hand have never heard of the special offer, and look at me quizzically when I try explaining what Foursquare is in the first place. And I'm not the only one who's had this issue. There's probably an easy way to "report" vendors who don't honor their promotions, but that feels like a lot of effort and I actually have no idea how to do that.
Of course, Foursquare has a long roster of merchants who have benefited from special offers, and there are folks like Scoble who absolutely love Foursquare.
I'm not going to give up on Foursquare completely, but if I'm checking-in I'll probably be doing so for vanity instead of trying to find any tangible benefits. Obviously, I'm hoping to get the mayorship at my dry cleaner back ASAP.
So, what say you, Foursquare fanatics? What am I missing and what should I do differently before my third anniversary?
The AP has heard my Christmas wishes!! This week it announced that it will launch a beta version of StyleGuard
, an automated style-checker for Word. I’ve often wondered why there was never a synergy between the AP and Word, since it seems like such a natural correlation. But now, for (the low, low price of) $49.95 your documents can be automatically checked in Word as you type.
With the $50 price tag I’m interested to see just how much use it gets right away since an AP Stylebook is only $20 and there are always a few floating around most PR firms or any content creator's office.
According to Stylebook product manager Colleen Newvine, the price is based on how much work is involved with the product:
“This product has been in the works for quite some time. The heavy lifting involved in having linguists dissect each Stylebook rule to look for multiple ways people might get it wrong so the software can recognize a mistake and suggest the right way is monumental.
As such, we consider this a premium product that delivers more value than the traditional spiral-bound book.”
While I’m really excited that the AP has finally integrated with Word, I’m not sure it’s something I’ll jump on right away due to the cost. Plus, I love asking around, taking guess and then looking up a word or term in the Stylebook to see who’s right.
– Ali Robinson
It’s the end of the year, and you know what that means – top 10 lists! Google has done its part by releasing its Zeitgeist 2011 list, which catalogs the top 10 search terms/subjects over the past twelve months.
This year’s list is a true smorgasbord, comprised of everything from tech products to celebrities – there’s even a nuclear power plant in there. Topping the list is Rebecca Black (I have no idea who this is, by the way, but then again, I’m an old dude). It also includes Google+, Steve Jobs, and the videogame “Battlefield 3.”
At number six, the iPhone 5. I find this one particularly interesting from a public relations perspective, primarily because it’s a product that technically doesn’t exist. You remember the media fervor leading up to the new iPhone announcement, right? And the corresponding letdown that took place when the iPhone 4S was finally unveiled (incidentally, the iPhone 4S didn’t make the Zeitgeist list)?
Of course, this attests to the power of Apple to drum up huge interest in just about anything it does, but it also speaks to the power – and potential pitfalls – of building hype. Developing momentum around a major product announcement can be fantastic, but you also have to deliver upon that momentum through the actual announcement itself. In the iPhone 4S case, you could make the argument that Apple didn’t stoke the fires that were lit prior to that product’s introduction. But, surely they must have understood the expectations that came along with it, expectations that – Siri aside – may not quite have been met.
I’m not saying the iPhone 4S is a dud; clearly, it’s a huge hit. But as the Zeitgeist list shows, it’s perhaps not in the same stratosphere as the elusive iPhone 5. And while Apple can get away with subverting expectations, most companies can’t. Building a drumbeat about an upcoming announcement is great, but paying attention to what’s being said and written pre-announcement can help companies manage expectations when the big reveal occurs.
- Pete Larmey
I recently went on vacation to visit family members I hadn’t seen in a while. During the course of the visit, I had a conversation with one of my cousins:
Cousin: “So how’s the job going?”
Me: “Really well.”
Cousin: “And what is it that you do again?”
Me: “I work in public relations.”
Cousin: “Uh huh.” (Pause) Then: “And what is that exactly?”
Me: “Well, it’s a lot of things, but much of it boils down to working with the media to get positive press coverage for our clients.”
Cousin: “So…you write stories?”
Me: “Not really. Well, sometimes. But really it’s more working with reporters to get them to write about our clients.”
Cousin: “So…you’re a reporter?”
Me: “No. But I work with the reporters to help them understand what my clients do so they can develop stories about them.”
Cousin (blank stare): “I see.” (Pause) “So…it’s like advertising?”
Me: “Not exactly. It’s really more…”
You get the picture. This has been going on for the past 18 years, by the way.
Following this conversation, it struck me that PR is really, really hard to define – and with new forms of communication like social media and search marketing, it’s getting even more complicated. That’s because as forms of media continue to evolve, so does the definition of what is included within a public relations program. It’s not just media relations, it’s media relations and social media. It’s not just social media, it’s social media and speaking engagements. It’s not just speaking engagements, it’s speaking engagements and analyst relations. And more and more and more.
I think the next time someone asks me what I do, I’ll try to keep it simple: “I help communicate the benefits that my clients provide to their audiences – and use a lot of different ways to do that.”
- Pete Larmey
Havard Business Review recently ran a great blog post by Dan Pallotta entitled “I Don’t Understand What Anyone Is Saying Anymore,” which looks at the various vocabularies that are corrupting or otherwise overly complicating the business world at large. It’s a great piece and I would encourage all to read Dan’s thoughts, especially because it ties in nicely to what I consider to be the “babblification” of technology and, more specifically, technology public relations.
David Meerman Scott has looked at the overuse of specific words in press releases, but I think that the problem goes deeper than just puffing up press releases. The entire vocabulary of the technology industry is skewed with unnecessary acronyms and inscrutable…babble, for lack of a better term. Even if vague phrases like “in the cloud” or “as-a-service” are removed from the lexicon, we as professional communicators still tend to be too technical and esoteric for even our families to understand.
The core of our business is to communicate effectively and clearly with a wide variety of audiences, both technical and consumer level. This means that we must able to vary our dialect dependent upon our interactions – a reporter with Wired is obviously more technical than, say, a lifestyle reporter with a local daily. Leaving our vocabulary constantly stuck on “technobabble” does no one any favors – not our clients, not our colleagues and certainly not the media.
We’re communicators – let’s keep that front and center and communicate with others clearly, rather than trying to look impressive by name-dropping the latest and greatest technical terminology.
What do you think – are buzzwords ruining business and PR for you? Can you live without saying “in the cloud” for a day?