In search of better social incentives

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Can I vent for a minute? OK, I will. I've been using Foursquare for about a year now, and the incentives coming from marketers don't seem to be getting any better. I enjoy using the service regardless of deals. Just last week I met up with some friends who were randomly sitting at a bar two doors down from where I was perched on a stool Friday night. Yet I do find myself more and more looking for the "Special" listed nearby. Unfortunately, unless I'm the "mayor" of someplace (and I greatly suspect many of these mayors are actually the barkeep or hostess), I get nothing, zip, zilch. Maybe I get a badge from Foursquare, which I have to admit I enjoy at times, such as unlocking the "I'm on a boat" badge by riding the water taxi to Brooklyn's Ikea.

It seems to me this a lost opportunity for brands and small businesses alike. Moreover, some of the deals could be more specific, and perhaps as mobile technology advances, more companies will take advantage of better targeting in this arena, tying loyalty cards to your Foursquare location, etc.. For example, I go to Starbucks a lot - too much sometimes - but whenever I check in to one, they try to give me a $1 off a Frappuccino - only if I'm the mayor, of course. No. 1, I don't drink Frappuccinos, so this deal is irrelevant to me. No. 2 - I'm not the mayor. Some barista is. I've stopped checking into Starbucks beginning today.

I'm picking on marketers using Foursquare here, but the same rules apply to other social networks. There's a reason that I follow Orbitz on Twitter - they constantly tweet out steep travel discounts, which I enjoy - and there's a reason that some people love those Facebook games: interaction, competition with friends, entertainment.

It might take a little more work, but organizations need to challenge their marketing teams a bit more to come up with more relevant social connections. I don't follow your [insert company/brand here] because it makes me look super cool (you're not); I follow you to find out about something, to get a discount, to be entertained.

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