As we may have mentioned, this will be the year that Foursquare starts to more directly monetize the local engagement on its mobile app.
Just a week after its Local Updates announcement, today it goes further down the monetization path by announcing two new ones; Promoted Updates and Promoted Specials.
Much like they sound (and kind of like Local Updates), Promoted Updates let companies distribute messages about new products or availability. Promoted Specials are basically a more specific version of that, involving particular redeemable deals.
They have an undisclosed timeline for full launch and are currently available to 20 partners including Gap, Best Buy, Hilton, and Walgreens (see SMB angle below). Interestingly, they’ll be priced on a cost-per-action basis, which makes sense.
In terms of distribution, Foursquare stresses that its going for maximum relevance and doesn’t want to spam users who have gotten very accustomed to an advertising-free experience. That relevance should also boost ad performance.
Foursquare plans to accomplish this by only showing these promotions when users are in proximity to a business, and when offers/products match their inferred interest. The latter is governed by users’ past check-ins, to-do lists, or their friends’ activity.
If this sounds familiar, it’s the same targeting scheme that stands behind Foursquare’s Explore Tab and its younger cousin, the Radar Feature.
This represents an area where Foursquare has been refining its algorithms and beefing up the data sets on which this and other monetized content delivery will be based.
As we’ve explored (no pun intended) in past writing, all of these previous moves were about becoming a better local discovery engine. And the endgame is about monetizing it in an unobtrusive way.
Next up will be to move down market to the massive (but challenged) SMB marketplace. And we’ll see more ad formats like this continue to roll out.
All the while, Foursquare’s “master plan” will start to reveal itself and we expect it will at least resemble in some ways what we and many others have been saying all along. Stay tuned.