Foursquare co-founder and CEO Dennis Crowley just finished speaking at the IAB MIXX digital advertising conference in New York. Marketers may have had a hard time getting a hold of the company in the past, he said, but now it’s “pretty much open for business.”
Earlier this year, Foursquare hired its first chief revenue officer, Steven Rosenblatt, and it launched the pilot program for its first big moneymaking feature, Promoted Updates. Through Promoted Updates, big retailers like Gap, Hilton, and Walgreens can push messages about new products and specials to targeted users. Crowley said that eventually, Foursquare wants to build a self-serve version of the Promoted Updates platform, making them available to smaller advertisers.
Even though Foursquare is only starting to monetize, Crowley said the company has been working on its ad products (by which he means the company’s merchant platform) for 3.5 years — it just wasn’t really charging until now. The company will face some challenges in winning advertisers over, he acknowledged, because it doesn’t offer standard ad units. Still, he argued that Foursquare is like Twitter — you can start to understand by watching others. So if a marketer works with brands that don’t have a presence on Foursquare, Crowley said they should claim their profile, then look at what other companies in the same industry have done to get ideas about “what’s most effective.”
Crowley added Foursquare also has a big advantage, because it isn’t trying to make money from ads that consumers try to ignore — instead, it’s monetizing through discounts and specials, which some users call “my favorite part of the app.”
And he tied the new Promoted Updates into the evolution of Foursquare’s broader hypothesis. The initial idea, he said, was that Foursquare could help retailers understand who their best customers are through check-in data. Then it expanded by allowing those merchants to track spending, thanks to its partnership with American Express, to offer promotions. Now national retailers (and eventually, local merchants) can pay to get those promotions in front of consumers.
“We’re going to spend the rest of the year building out the tools and getting them in front of folks,” Crowley said.
Recapping some of the info available on the Foursquare website, he said the company has 25 million users, 1 million merchants, and sees 5 million check ins per day.