By Todd Carpenter, Social Media Manager, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®
There’s been a lot of talk lately about foursquare, the new kid on the social media block. And whenever a new social network starts to take hold, the first thing many professionals want to do is measure the return on investment (ROI) involved in participating on such a network. My reaction? Meh.
foursquare is a silly game. The ROI ought to be fulfilled by the smile on your face while playing it. Silly games like these rarely result in a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. That said, foursquare is a really fun silly game that also happens to represent the future of social networking, especially in the real estate industry.
Below is a copy of the slides I used for a presentation I gave to the Cyber-Professionals Group at their semi-annual meeting in San Diego last month. They’re mostly screenshots I took while playing foursquare on my iPhone and might help you follow along with my train of thought here.
foursquare is a mobile, smartphone-based social networking platform centered around the idea that people should go out at night and have fun instead of sitting in front of their TVs and watching Friends reruns. The idea is to go somewhere fun ( a restaurant, bar, movie theater, the park…) and check in. The more times and places you check in at, the more virtual currency you earn.
This virtual currency comes in three forms:
1. Straight-up points earned by checking in. These points place you on a scoreboard with local friends. They reset every week and sort of remind me of the scoreboard on the Frogger machine at the local arcade, with the glory of top placement only lasting until someone else comes along and gets a higher score, or the machine gets unplugged.
2. Badges are like Boy Scout merit badges gone wrong. For instance, you can earn the School Night badge for checking in after 3:00 a.m. on a weeknight. I earned my Crunked badge on Halloween by checking into four spots in one night. The Playa Please badge is earned by checking into a venue with three members of the opposite sex. I earned that one too.
3. Mayor-ships come by checking into one venue more times than anyone else. At the time of this writing, I’m the mayor of The Shore Club in Miami, MaryJane’s Coffee House in San Diego, and Floyd’s 99 Barbershop here in Chicago.
Does this sound like the future of social networking for real estate?
Of course not. It’s a silly game! But once you start playing the game, the leap from simple enjoyment to seeing how the same technology could (and will) be applied to the real estate industry is a short one.
First off, when you check in somewhere, all of your foursquare friends in that city are notified. In addition, these check-ins can be pushed to Twitter. This is a way of saying, “Here I am! Come by and say hi if you’re in the area.” The goal of any online social network should be to eventually extend your connections from online to face-to-face. This is an easy way to encourage that.
Second, foursquare has started to offer location-based marketing. So when you check in at a local restaurant for dinner, a small green “Special Nearby” tab might show up letting you know that the bar down the street is offering drink specials tonight. Or even better, that the Mayor drinks for free! fourssquare is an example of a GPS-enabled, location-based mobile marketing solution.
Third, foursquare is a location-based social media platform where members comment about the locations themselves. The first time foursquare really got my attention was while traveling through Midway Airport this summer. As soon as I checked in, the platform sent me this message, “Since you’re at Chicago Midway International Airport, Tyler H. says: ‘Don’t fly AirTran. They Suck.'” foursquare’s ability to solicit comments in the field means that its users can conveniently endorse a location on the road, or trash it while emotions are at their peak.
Location, Location, Location.
Think about this. With smartphone-based applications and social networks, consumers will soon have the power to walk past a property, take a picture of it, geotag and apply an address to it, check its value, find comparable listings, check crime statistics, calculate its WalkScore, find school information, review and check reviews of businesses in the neighborhood (including yours), and potentially review a property itself, right from the phone, while they are standing in front of it. I can do almost all of this today from separate apps on my iPhone. It’s only a matter of time before it can all happen on a single platform.
Are you ready for this?
It’s coming. Apps like foursquare are the future of social media. The lines between online and face-to-face are blurred. Information is immediate, and can be pushed to a client, simply based on their location. It’s a huge opportunity and a scary risk, all at the same time. If you’re evaluating foursquare based on ROI, I think you’re missing the point. REALTORS® will need to be proficient on networks like these in the future. Might as well start figuring them out by playing this silly game. Now, who wants to go out and earn a “Don’t Stop Believing” badge with me tonight?
Todd Carpenter, Managing Director of the Data Analytics Group at NAR
I'm a twenty year veteran of the real estate and mortgage industry, focusing on technology that fosters relationships between professionals and consumers. I am a subject matter expert in data analytics, online consumer trends, enterprise social media strategy, listing data, agent ratings, and public facing MLS portals.