The niche-popular city-hopping site Foursquare typifies how social media marketing and advertising are now almost wholly out of the control of a given venue and fully into the control of the consumer.
Foursquare aficionados (some say narcissists) relentlessly “check in” to whichever venue they are currently supporting in an effort to share with the rest of the information-consuming public both what they are eating that day at lunch (oh man, I gotta know–and did you get it with or without the mayo???), and where.
For the venue, another bump on the Foursquare map, another Tweet reiterating your Cafe’s name and signature sandwich means jogging the over-addled consumer brain with more of your unique Ju-Ju delivered in palm. And the more the Foursquare player goes to your joint, the closer he or she gets to becoming its “Mayor”. On that level, it seems like a low effort win-win, no ad budget needed thank you.
But what if the mayor is a pig-faced jerk? What if you’re Cartier and your “ideal customer” is a Jackie-O type but you get Ozzy Osbourne’s daughter instead? Well, money is money, and buzz is buzz, but then again…can Jessica Simpson really sell Hunter boots without a long term decline that defies a sudden bump? Does Brooks Brothers truly want Rod Blagojevich as the top purveyor of its Golden Fleece Two-Button pinstripe?
I think not.
When the venues are even more intimate, in, say, small cities and towns, where who is loved and who is despised is a matter of ongoing teatime gossip, then, perhaps an unpopular “mayor” does nothing for business except…drive it down!
It’s a little too late for that.
The ubiquity of social media, along with the unthinking adoption of any new app, puts businesses at risk as readily as it offers them new opportunities. There is now and there will be no end to new products and new apps in the social media world. Same with bubble gum flavors and pop songs. Separating the wheat from the chaff is the duty of business owners and their top guns who wish to, if not retain the old model, at least co-participate in some semblance of control even as its slips wildly out of their grasp.
To that end, integrating every available social media roll-out, or participating on it, may not be in your business’ best interest. In other words, think before you Tweet, and…perhaps there is a widget cap quotient worth keeping in mind–or finding the mathematical determinant of.
I was talking to a business owner today who said that if she could, she would add an option to Foursquare allowing her to flick her current “mayor” off her site, as if her mayor were a fly that needed eliminating. Ouch! Initially this seems far from what any business owner would do in customer relations. But what if the business owner starts feeling too far out of the loop of their own social media identity?
The downside of Foursquare’s mayor concept is that it is not about the democratization inherent in social media and the Internet, but rather rule by fiat, with no accountability. If you pig out on a regular basis at a particular joint, voila, you’re mayor. Does that mean Restaurant-X wants you as the spokesperson?
In social media, the baseline question is always, “Does this add value”? An equally important question should be, “Does this take away value”? Sure, as a business you’ll still have the rabid early adopters asking whether you have a certain app, and offering the hyper-enthusiastic take on why, “…you’ve got to get it, man”. But you don’t.
Does it add value? Does it take away value?
Even Foursquare seems to be mindful that not all is well in the land of the welcome mat UPC. As Mashable reports today, just as Facebook is set to roll out location options, Foursquare is prepared to offer more privacy, a location under wraps. For those of us dying to know where you’re having your coffee this morning, and whether it is Sumatra, Ethiopian, or Shenadoah Joe, this comes as an earth-shattering shock to our very consciousness, and we’re seeking out support even as we type. For the rest of the world, they’d likely say drink up, they wont know the difference anyway.