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No thanks on the Koolaid

February 5, 2010

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about Foursquare so on this snowy Friday I thought I would offer my two cents.

First, if you’ve never heard of Foursquare the loose value prop is that you win points from businesses you frequent and these points can earn you discounts and, magically, you can become the mayor of a business. I guess you then lord this over your friends as if you had dunked on King James. Awesome.

You should also know that the team that invested in Twitter has invested in Foursquare.

The most recent buzz beyond the Foursquare/Bravo partnership is that companies like Foursquare gather customer data about behavior and intend to make it available to businesses so they can better target their offers.

Let’s start with suggesting small business owners have about 5 minutes to do any marketing and analyzing data for them amounts to totaling the day’s receipts. Most don’t update their PC-based website and a large group don’t even have a PC-website and rely on their (yikes) Yellow Page listing as their marketing vehicle.

Imagine I own a pizza place and most of my customers come to me after visiting the hardware store next door. What do I do with this nugget? I’d rather ask my customers to give me their mobile phone number so I can send them mobile-only specials. Do I really want my message to be “Hey, try to be the mayor of my place on Foursquare”?

Furthermore, there are Fortune 500 companies with mountains of data and products like Pontiac Aztek and the Gatorade “G” rebranding still manifest themselves and flop before our very eyes.

Data won’t solve bad service or a poor quality product and these matter to most everyone before the deal does. A 50% offer from a pizza place I am Foursquare mayor of and where I just had a rotten experience gets me nowhere.

Foursquare also is really limited as to its scope being mostly a coastal phenomenon. Will it play elsewhere? Is checking in something we all want to start doing everywhere we go?

These questions and more remain to be answered but I seriously question the true value of all this customer behavior data since so many conclusions can be generated from any data set.

The same effect of rewarding repeat customers can be accomplished with a free Ruxter site and you won’t be asking the user to learn the Foursquare lingo or be forced to check in to get the special offer. You can use Ruxter to develop a mobile following and reward them with offers they value while they’re on the go and stick to adding up the money in the register as your data analysis.

 Dale Knoop is a mobile multimedia patents holder and an industry-recognized pioneer of mobile data services. In 2005 Dale won an Emmy while serving as the GM for Sprint TV. In August 2009 he launched Ruxter which allows anyone to quickly and easily become part of the rapidly growing mobile internet with a free, fully optimized mobile website they can share with anyone. You can contact him here. Follow Ruxter on Twitter.

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