Foursquare, the location-based app that allows users to check in at different locations to earn badges, the title of mayor, and other awards, has been tweaking its service over the last couple months in an effort to garner more revenue. Last year, Foursquare earned just $2 million. Regardless, they have been implementing new features that should put that number on the rise this year. While the app used to revolve entirely around check-ins, the service is changing, responding to consumer demand which seems to want Foursquare to be more of a rating and social recommendation service like Yelp.
Foursquare for Business is certainly the powerful tool shop owners have needed to promote their business over the network more quickly and easily, and the recent changes are only making it better. In addition to claiming their listing, businesses can now make local updates that work “like a digital chalkboard” to connect with nearby customers, offer specials to reward their Foursquare customers, and learn about their shoppers through free analytics tools, all from the convenience of their Smartphone. In an effort to leave no one out, Foursquare has also bundled similar tools for brands that have no physical location, such as publishers, musicians, or sports teams. That way, your favorite musician has a way to engage and reward you on your favorite check-in app, too.
Obviously, the benefits are already great if you own a brick and mortar location. Now you don’t need to run to the computer in the middle of the day to sit down and add a new update or special – you can do it right on your phone when the time strikes. But here are a few ways to get a little more out of Foursquare:
Remind Your Customers to Check In
You may already have a community of Foursquare users checking in and competing for mayorship — and if so, good job! But if your customers need a little encouragement (or an outright reminder) it doesn’t hurt to announce your presence on the app. Foursquare offers a window cling that you can print out on cling plastic and stick to your storefront, and it doesn’t hurt to mention your specials on Foursquare beside the other specials on your overhead menu or sandwich board.
Follow Up With Your Customers for a Review
Got a check-in? Great! Time to try to get a review out of it. Search Engine Journal has a great post about how to use Foursquare to get online reviews. The post explains how to monitor the check-ins your customers share to Twitter, which you can then reply to and ask for a review while it’s still fresh on their minds. If they had a great experience and have a moment to spare, they’ll probably be happy to recommend you to their friends and the rest of the Web. And, since local results and reviews are becoming increasingly important, it’s great to encourage now.
Give the Mayor Dibs
On Foursquare, the person who checks in at your location the most is the mayor. Well, this person certainly is a fan of your business and giving you income — so reward them. Offer exclusive specials just for the mayor, or give them bonuses in other ways; let them skip to the head of checkout or get a free drink for a friend. If you advertise this special reward, you’re sure to see a flurry of new check-ins from mayor hopefuls.
Check-In for Charity
During SXSW 2010, Microsoft and PayPal put together a great charitable program where every check-in in the town of Austin or every tweet with the hashtag #sxswHaiti generated a 25 cent donation to Save the Children up to $15,000. The program was a hit, and they quickly reached their goal. Other businesses have gotten in on the act too — for Black Friday 2011, JCPenney gave $25 for every check-in to their business up to $100,000 to the Salvation Army, and during the flu season of the same year, Walgreens donated a flu shot voucher for every check-in. Even if your business can’t afford to spend on the same scale as Microsoft, PayPal, JCPenney or Walgreens, you can still get in the giving groove — advertise you’re giving a small donation per check-in to a local charity on a certain day.
Got any other ideas for creative business uses of Foursquare? Leave them in the comments.
Adrienne Erin works with Clarity Way, an alcohol rehab center that treats patients from a variety of backgrounds.
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Twitter’s self-serve ad platform is now available to all U.S. users, rather than just on an invitation-only basis. The social media platform has also added enhancements designed to help advertisers better analyze and manage their ad campaigns.
The maker of one of the most-used browsers on the Internet is accusing British company Gamma International Ltd. of producing commercial spyware that masquerades as Firefox.
Mozilla has sent Gamma a cease and desist letter to demand “these illegal practices stop immediately,” Alex Fowler, head of privacy and public policy for Mozilla, said in a blog post.
Finfisher is a surveillance software thought to be used by a number of govenments, including the U.S. and the U.K.
“Through the work of the Citizen Lab research team, we believe Gamma’s spyware tries to give users the false impression that, as a program installed on their computer or mobile device, it’s related to Mozilla and Firefox, and is thus trustworthy both technically and in its content,” Fowler said.
Fowler said Finfisher is able to trick Firefox users in two ways: by misrepresenting its program as “Firefox.exe” and using an identical assembly manifest from Firefox software.
“As an open source project trusted by hundreds of millions of people around the world, defending Mozilla’s trademarks from this type of abuse is vital to our brand, our users and the continued success of our mission,” Fowler said.
The spyware does not affect Firefox “either during the installation process or when it is operating covertly on a person’s computer or mobile device,” Fowler said, adding the Finfisher software remains separate, only using Firefox trademarks to “lie and mislead as one of its methods for avoiding detection and deletion.”
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New research also shows that one out of every three respondents use a mobile device throughout the entire purchase process. Sixty percent of smartphone users across the categories examined completed purchases related to their mobile activity.
Twitter and Sonic.net are all-stars when it comes to protecting user privacy, says the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in its annual privacy report.
The two firms were the only two out of 18 technology companies to impress the EFF with their “outstanding commitment” to “public transparency around government access to user data.”
The report, dubbed “Who Has Your Back,’ revealed Apple, MySpace,Verizon and AT&T in particular are lax when it comes to protecting the privacy of their clients.
“Apple and AT&T are members of the Digital Due Process coalition, but don’t observe any of the other best practices we’re measuring. And this year — as in past years — MySpace and Verizon earned no stars in our report,” the report reads. “We remain disappointed by the overall poor showing of ISPs like AT&T and Verizon in our best practice categories.”
The EFF’s report ranks the technology firms in six categories:
• Requires a warrant for content;
• Tells users about government data requests;
• Publishes transparency reports;
• Publishes law enforcement guidelines;
• Fights for users’ privacy rights in courts;
• Fights for users’ privacy in Congress.
If the company fulfills the EFF’s criteria in a category, it receives a star.
• Six-star companies were: Twitter and Sonic.net.
• Five-star companies were: Google, DropBox, LinkedIn and SpiderOak.
• Four-star companies were: Microsoft, Foursquare and WordPress.
• Three-star companies were: Tumblr and Facebook.
• Two-star companies were: Comcast and Amazon.
• One-star companies were: Yahoo, Apple and AT&T.
• No-star companies were: Verizon and MySpace.
The EFF said there has been a marked improvement this year over previous years as more and more technology companies are giving their users a heads-up — unless prohibited from doing so by law or court order — when a law enforcement agency requests their information.
Earning a star in this category were Dropbox, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Sonic.net, SpiderOak, Twitter, and WordPress.
“We were disappointed to see Google backslide in this category, introducing ambiguity into its policy and, in the process, losing the half-star it had earned in previous years,” the EFF said.
The EFF also lauded companies such as Google, Microsoft and Twitter that are now providing annual transparency reports and gave extra praise to Microsoft and Google for publishing government demands for information.
Seven companies — Comcast, Foursquare, Google, Microsoft, SpiderOak, Tumblr, and WordPress — met the EFF’s criteria requiring law enforcement guidelines be published.
More companies are also fighting for user privacy on Capitol Hill as part of the Digital Due Process Coalition with Foursquare, Tumblr, and WordPress earning stars in the category for the first time.
“In today’s increasingly digital world, online service providers serve as the guardians of our most intimate data — from e-mail content to location information to our social and family connections,” the EFF said. “The policies adopted by these corporations will have deep and lasting ramifications on whether individual Internet users can communicate free from the shadow of government surveillance.”
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A Searchmetrics analysis of news sources in Google’s search results over several hundred thousand keywords in March 2013 shows that Patch.com had the most visibility, followed by Huffington Post, Disney’s Go.com, NYTimes.com and WashingtonPost.com.
The two-year-old company — which this week hit the 10-million user mark — has already had one run-in with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and, in February, agreed to pay a $800,000 fine to settle charges that it illegally accumulated personal data from children without their parents’ knowledge.
Path CEO and co-founder Dave Morin also agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it misled users by filching personal data from their mobile device address books without their permission. Under the settlement, Path was forced to institute a “comprehensive privacy program and to obtain independent privacy assessments every other year for the next 20 years,” according to an FTC news release.
Now, just three months later, one former Path member has publicly accused the private social-networking app of spamming his contacts with text messages and calls.
U.K. digital marketer Stephen Kenwright took to his Branded3 blog yesterday to complain about Path’s aggressive attempts to recruit his family members and friends the day after he signed up for the application — a move he now calls a “catastrophic faux pas.”
Despite uninstalling the app after just a half-hour of use, he said Path, after accessing his address book without his knowledge, texted his dad on both his mobile phones and called his grandparents and his parents landlines at 6:30 a.m. to inform them that he had pictures he wanted to share with them via Path.
He also pointed out that during the half hour he used the app, he did not share anything with any of his contacts.
“My aunt texted me … enquiring about the photos I apparently have to share with her (I don’t have any photos to share with her — I uninstalled Path yesterday before actually sharing anything), Kenwright wrote.
“I sent an apologetic text message as I arrived in the Branded3 offices, and colleagues started to question me about photos I wanted to share with them (I don’t have any photos to share with them). At least these people have Smartphones.”
Kenwright’s next move was to check to Twitter to see if others had similar experiences with Path.
“Someone had replied to my tweet — the answer was yes,” he said.
As Kenwright pointed out, Path issued an apology in February for the way it used members’ personal data without consent.
The apology reads:
We made a mistake. Over the last couple of days users brought to light an issue concerning how we handle your personal information on Path, specifically the transmission and storage of your phone contacts.
As our mission is to build the world’s first personal network, a trusted place for you to journal and share life with close friends and family, we take the storage and transmission of your personal information very, very seriously.
Through the feedback we’ve received from all of you, we now understand that the way we had designed our ‘Add Friends’ feature was wrong. We are deeply sorry if you were uncomfortable with how our application used your phone contacts.
In the interest of complete transparency we want to clarify that the use of this information is limited to improving the quality of friend suggestions when you use the ‘Add Friends’ feature and to notify you when one of your contacts joins Path––nothing else. We always transmit this and any other information you share on Path to our servers over an encrypted connection. It is also stored securely on our servers using industry standard firewall technology.
We believe you should have control when it comes to sharing your personal information. We also believe that actions speak louder than words. So, as a clear signal of our commitment to your privacy, we’ve deleted the entire collection of user uploaded contact information from our servers. Your trust matters to us and we want you to feel completely in control of your information on Path.
In Path 2.0.6, released to the App Store today, you are prompted to opt in or out of sharing your phone’s contacts with our servers in order to find your friends and family on Path. If you accept and later decide you would like to revoke this access, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will promptly see to it that your contact information is removed.
As Path points out in its apology, it will continue to nab data from users’ contact lists unless they opt out. It is a common, but forceful, practice employed by many apps in an attempt to garner new sign-ups.
It is a sure bet that a good share of users, much like Kenwright, click through the sign-up process so quickly, they miss changing the default share setting and, therefore, unknowingly spam all of their contacts. The message — Path is more fun with friends. Invite them to join you by selecting names below — could be reworded to make it clear that if users do not click ‘unselect all,’ invitations will be sent to all of their contacts.
It is a process Path may want to rethink, even though the company maintains it has done nothing wrong.
“Users are giving us permission to send invitations to friends and family,” Path marketing vice-president Nate Johnson told CNET. “Path is best with friends. We want to help users connect with close friends and family as quickly as possible.”
Still, the powers that be at Path must know that a good share of users go through the sign-up process so quickly, they are bound to miss some of the fine print, so to speak.
The app may want to ease up on its aggressive recruitment efforts if it wants to continue to be one of the most popular apps in the U.S.
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