SMX West 2011: Keynote Discussion with Tristan Walker of Foursquare

In this conversation, Foursquare’s director of business development, Tristan Walker, talks ways to utilize the service, new features and more with Search Engine Land’s Chris Sherman and Danny Sullivan. Tristan has a very interesting and impressive professional and educational background, wow. Let’s chat!

SMX West logo

Today, Foursquare launched 3.0, available tonight in the apps market. There’s an explore tab, showing recommendations based on check-ins, popularity and more. Second, encouragement – incentivizing users to check in. There’s a fully revamped “leaderboard.”

The last is loyalty. Providing new tools to merchants to continue to engage with their customers. Can run new special types now, such as “friends” specials – checking in with five of your friends and you get something, and the list goes on.

Tristan says the core goal is to redefine what loyalty means. Foursquare allows merchants to track loyalty by allowing merchants to think about recency, frequency and value. Foursqaure allows merchants to measure the value of their ad spend.

Danny asks what other things Foursquare is doing to improve business.

There are three types of customers, sole proprietors, retailers and traditional brands. Foursquare offers tools for the first two and is developing more. He thinks that brand pages are a good compromise for those latter types of businesses.

He is talking about History Channel on Foursquare. Tristan is talking about brands leading consumers to do things by providing tips. He says the Jimmy Choo brand is the epitome of this.

Jimmy Choo came out with a new sneaker line in London and gave that sneaker a personality that would go around town and check-in. Followers who could get to that location quickly, would get free sneakers. People were running around all over town. This led to a 30 percent increase in sneaker sales.

Brands are asking Foursquare if they can check into a TV show or event, but Foursquare wants to focus on physical location. But, they did Super Bowl as a test. More than 100,000 people checked in and got a coupon code for NFL merchandise. They might do it again but not going to be their core focus.

Chris asks Tristan how marketers can work with Foursquare.

Tristan says, No. 1, we’re free. Get on the platform and help make the product better.

Danny asks where the revenue model is.

Tristan says the goals is to get as many merchants on the platform as possible. They don’t ever want to charge for things people don’t rush. They are listening.. And there’s no rush to monetize.

Danny talks about competitors and asks how Foursquare responds – sites like Yelp, Facebook and other more small services.

Tristan says there’s a product and business answer. Foursquare is all about location, from the ground up. Foursquare was the first to bring incentives for check-ins. They will continue to be great innovators with check-ins. On the business side, they want to build the best tools to drive engagement.

Danny is talking about Twittter leveraging celebrities. Ashton Kutcher is actually on Foursquare as well. Big Boi from Outkast is also on Foursquare.

Tristan says with celebs, it’s a different case, so they have a mode where you can share your location only when you want. Tristan says they may check in when they check out, depending on how much info they want to convey.

SMX West 2011: Keynote with Tristan Walker

Audience Questions

There isn’t a mic for audience questions, so Danny is going to the people. The first question came all the way from the back. Good exercise for Danny. Danny says feel free to group your questions geographically, ha.

Q: What about privacy issues?
A: Tristan says you choose to opt-in and will always respect that. So, no concerns about privacy yet.

Q: There is a question about the “chill out” message – this is something that happens when Foursquare is suspecting you might be trying to game the system.
A: Tristan says they are going to work o n that more.

Q: Where do you see Foursquare pushing into more types of businesses outside of coffee shops and restaurants?
A: Tristan says there is actually a cemetery on there, a medical marijuana facility, a taxi driver. These are all opportunities. There are so many different verticals. Any merchant can engage.

Q: There are a lot of duplicate entries and user can’t change that. What are you doing to clean that up?
A: There is a “Super User” base that actually does clean up the system for them. These are users that really engage with Foursquare a lot. Super users can be chosen by Tweeting 4SQSupport.

FYI: More details on the Foursquare-Amex partnership coming later this week.

Jessica Lee is the founder and chief creative for bizbuzzcontent Inc., a marketing boutique that focuses on digital content strategy and professional writing services for businesses.

See Jessica's author page for links to connect on social media.

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