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An introduction to location-based marketing using Foursquare and Gowalla

Author's avatar By Annmarie Hanlon 09 May, 2011
Essential Essential topic

A review of using Foursquare and Gowalla for marketing

Earlier this year I wrote about my experience of using Foursquare. We also posted a summary of 5 Foursquare campaigns to inspire you and Dan has a useful infographic on the popularity of the mobile checkin - which is at the core of these tools.

I'm now sharing the business opportunities of two similar location based marketing tools; Foursquare and Gowalla.

For me, location-based marketing tools are ideal if you’re a venue or destination for eating out. Perfect for tourist locations. They’re not really suited for general businesses and they are also a bit of a game.

Designed as geo-social networking tools and a form of online loyalty card, users access Foursquare and Gowalla from their smartphone and when they arrive at a specific destination, they 'check in'. Foursquare has made it harder to check in unless you’re at the venue, but with Gowalla I could check in when 10 kilometres away from a venue.


The table below shows a quick overview of the two location based marketing tools.

foursquare and gowalla comparison

Foursquare and gowalla comparison

What’s location based marketing about?

It is all about collecting points and badges and although I stopped actively using Foursquare in February I am still the Mayor of 3 locations. This means others in the area are not using Foursquare. Equally, I have checked-in today via Gowalla to several destinations near my home town in Lichfield, Staffordshire, UK and the most recent check-ins to several of these venues were 3 months ago.

Is it just a game? Is it about collecting points, badges and stamps?

Gowalla has great design skills and its stamps are works of art. Is that enough to get me to check-in on a regular basis? Gowalla is working with National Geographic to add greater value by including walking trips across cities. This makes it more of a lonely planet which is where it is focused. Gowalla also seems to respond faster to questions, comments. Foursquare takes an age and has an antiquated process for responding to UK businesses - would you believe they use snail mail!

Integration with other social networks

As with all new apps, users can connect via other social networking programmes like Facebook and Twitter. Last time I connected Twitter and Foursquare, my followers left me in droves, getting bored with the places I was visiting.

Like Foursquare, Gowalla has some strange venues. From Aunt’s June’s house to Chez Hughes in my neighbourhood.

The elephant in the room is Facebook Deals which in one success story got 5,000 people to visit the Alton Towers theme park on a wet January day. The issue with Facebook is that over half the UK population use it actively (that’s at least once a month) and it seems to be trusted. Qype is a related service too, which is particularly popular in Europe.

Opportunities for businesses

Gowalla appears to actively target tourist destinations to create badges for areas of theme parks that need more traffic. Visit the place, gain the stamp and it’s working.

If you’ve got a tourist destination, claim the venue if you want to attract new users that wouldn’t normally find you. But more importantly, let your visitors know you’re using location based marketing and the benefits to them.

Author's avatar

By Annmarie Hanlon

Annmarie Hanlon is the Smart Insights expert commentator on online and offline marketing strategies for business. Annmarie is the MD of Evonomie and author of Quick Win Marketing, and co-author of Quick Win Digital Marketing. She runs social media workshops in the UK and Ireland and shares marketing tips and news in her blog, B2B Marketing. You can follow Annmarie on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

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