Is Foursquare the new Twitter?

Posted by Martin Gregory of Legal Futures Associate Lateral Law

Foursquare: the future for solicitor marketing online?

Today, I begin a series looking at three of the less well known/utilised on-line applications. In the coming weeks, I will concentrate on Squidoo and Hubpages – tools that can help promote your law firm’s visibility on the World Wide Web, but I start with Foursquare, possibly the most intriguing and scaleable social media network to emerge in recent years.

Foursquare is a location-based service with a competitive edge that ultimately rewards its users, who “earn points, win Mayorships and unlock badges for trying new places and revisiting old favourites”. Businesses can “engage [their] increasingly mobile customers with… ‘Specials’, which are discounts and prizes you can offer your loyal customers when they check in… at your venue”. Specials come in a variety of forms, including those exclusive to the Mayor (your single most loyal customer), those based on the number of check-ins and wildcards, and are actively promoted by Foursquare.

I suppose the service is somewhat similar to Google Places, but the recommendations depend on the user’s actual physical location, as opposed to their virtual search area. Furthermore, Foursquare is, of course, interactive as a social network and “game”.

So, what has all of this got to do with solicitors? Well, it is certainly true that most venues appear to be retail based. Domino’s Pizza, for example, has a number of listings for each of its franchises, all promoting Specials such as “Free dessert when you buy a meal deal on your 3rd check-in!”. However, a search for “solicitors” found 27 venues. Some even have Mayors and/or positive feedback in the form of “tips”, which in one case (Fridays Property Lawyers) alerted users to a free HIP.

Solicitors should get in on the act now before Foursquare really takes off. Solicitors, along with other businesses, were sceptical about the potential of Twitter, but many law firms now regularly use this platform to promote their services, network and win new business. Who would have thought several years ago that clients would turn to Twitter when seeking legal advice, as opposed to first flicking through Yellow Pages and then, more recently, relying on Google and other search engines, as well as online directories and resources?

Similarly, as more and more people join Foursquare and become accustomed (and perhaps in some cases seemingly addicted) to its friendly competition, surely it will not be too long before it becomes second nature to use the network to find like-minded professionals? Foursquare may just be the next big thing.

Visitors can already leave tips, regardless of whether or not you have claimed your venue, so signing up gives you an element of control and the chance to portray a positive image to potential clients.

Specials could take the form of discounts against certain services, a free will if you handle the conveyancing, a free review of an existing will, free storage of title deeds and so on. The possibilities are endless. Let me know what you think.


    Readers Comments

  • Jon Bloor says:

    I still think that only a limited subset of people are going to check-in at their solicitors office (although they may of course check in “off the grid” without sharing the check-in if there is a special offer available – but I’m not sure how much benefit this would give the firm).

    We are on Foursquare and we have had clients checking in, but I suspect this is only for the fairly hard core user.

    Where I see it being more useful is in promoting a social aspect to law firm events such as seminars, conferences and networking events where people can see who is in attendance – but at the moment Foursquare doesn’t have (so far as I know) a time specific event check in function (it will just be a check in at the venue). Something like could be more useful for this as things currently stand.

  • Jon Busby says:

    My concern here is around ‘a n other’ social media tools importance being blown way out of proportion because it is the ‘new’ shiny thing.

    (Bear in mind many people absolutely despise location services such as FourSquare, Gowala etc)

    This ‘new’ is rapidly dissolving away. What is happening, in my opinion, is people are deciding how to use the tools more effectively. We don’t need more tools, we need better and more engagement. That can only happen as humans start to open up on these platforms.

    Do I think that FourSquare is a tool that law firms should use? Not sure, my gut instinct is no and Jon Bloor’s comments above ring very true for me.

    Let’s look at the evidence. Twitter. Many law firms have just run at it and joined on an almost “not really sure what it is or how to use it but everyone else is using is so we must’ basis.

    Law firms need, in the main, to wake up to the real power of social media engagement which is all about none ‘push’ marketing, being part of a community, contributing when asked and helping others by sharing.

    The ‘law firm’ is not a great social media engagement platform, too restricted, too compliant, too corporate.

    Solicitors on the other hand…now there is a very powerful, human engagement tool.

  • Many thanks for the comments.

    Unlike Jon Bloor, I only have limited personal experience of using Foursquare for business and tend to agree that it is probably more suited to the retail sector. Having said that, I cannot help feel that tips and Specials could engage and entice Clients who would otherwise go elsewhere? Even a simple listing may help generate some new enquiries. Perhaps it is in search that the application has most value?

    I like Jon Bloor’s suggestion of utilising Foursquare at law firm events and Lanyrd appears a good example of how this could be integrated.

    Jon Busby, I agree that we should not get too carried away. As with Twitter, Facebook etc., there will be those people who “get” Foursquare and those that do not. The very nature of social media also requires some level of personal, human interaction to make it work, although there are obviously limits to how far this should go.

    I suppose that, as with most “new” social media tools, only time will tell whether or not Foursquare is really appropriate and effective for Lawyers.

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