Foursquare for the Enterprise? Potential uses discussed.

Foursquare for the Enterprise? Potential uses discussed.

iStock_000019073191XSmall-300x300If enterprise forecasters such as Hutch Carpenter of Spigit are correct, location-based technologies will enter the business place as part of enterprise social media tools in 2012. Alex Williams discusses the issue in a ReadWriteWeb post back in 2010, crediting Carpenter for recognizing the two-year lapse in adoption by businesses of popular Enterprise 2.0 tools.

That puts Foursquare-style technologies on the brink of popularity. That’s “Foursquare-style technologies,” not simply location-based technologies. Those have been around for years as ways to track shipping, capital expenditures and deliveries for businesses that work in shipping and distribution environments.

The exciting and difficult part about integrating geolocation into enterprise social media tools is that we are talking about predicting the future. One of the best ways to do so is to look outside of our corporate environments to our personal uses of social media and ask the question: Which of our personal social media tools can be applied to our business lives?

Foursquare is one of the more promising examples of geolocation applications that will influence enterprise social media in 2012. In case you aren’t familiar with it, Foursquare and its fellow location-based applications have GPS — global positioning system — based location functionality. Using your smart phone, you can check in to various locations, from the corner deli to your favorite theater. Four of the biggest benefits of checking in:

1. You’re creating a trail. By regularly checking in to destinations, you are mapping where you eat, stay, work and play. For me, that comes in handy when my epicurean wife and I visit food destinations like New York. When you hit 17 restaurants in one weekend and want to recommend hot spots to friends, it’s easier when you’re on Foursquare.

2. You’re finding friends in unusual places. Airports can be lonely places. When you’re on Foursquare, you can check in and find out if you have friends waiting for their flights. Flight canceled? Buy your friend a coffee and make the stay more pleasant.

3. You’re staking your claim. Foursquare rewards its users for checking in to places by giving the most frequent visitors badges and lofty titles like “mayor.” As a mayor, you are claiming subject matter expertise or ownership of something. For example, as of this writing, I am the mayor of Room Four in Indianapolis. This means that I have checked in so many times to enjoy a meal here that I could be considered an expert on its cuisine and provide the owner with an educated assessment of the restaurant.

4. You’re earning rewards. If a store or restaurant uses Foursquare to its advantage, it will offer its mayors and other patrons incentives for visiting and checking in to Foursquare. Those rewards could be half off an appetizer, complimentary valet service or a free carousel ride. Foursquare is a social way to find and reward valued customers.


What This Could Mean for the Enterprise

Some people view Foursquare as a frivolous application, but when applied to enterprise social media, its capabilities can have powerful implications. For example, field workers and linemen from an electric utility cooperative or corporation who are assigned to a region with a lot of lines or substations are their regions’ experts. They have location expertise. If these people are regularly checking in to locations, that information can be made available on social-enabled employee profiles. As Mark Fidelman points out, using Foursquare’s format, peers could elect a mayor of a business or department based on criteria such as knowledge sharing. In this case, a lineman could be mayor of a substation.

If a natural disaster or serious storm struck a particular region, the individual whose profile matched up as the location’s expert could be tapped to assess damage quickly and advise backup workers from other companies or cities to help in reestablishing service, navigating back roads to reach the damaged lines or whatever the issue might be.

This kind of tool also translates into subject matter expertise. If your organization has several offices and your employees travel frequently, checking in helps these employees find each other, make connections and benefit from each other’s knowledge. If I see someone is going to the same location or project over and over again and has earned a badge or mayoral status, I would assume they are a subject matter expert on that place or project. If someone from your company is flying into Mexico City all the time, and you have an issue with a client in Mexico City, you can reach out to them for help.

Geolocation can also offer rewards to encourage engagement. If your company has a wellness program, frequent check-ins to a gym or park can lead to a spa package prize or free gym membership. Often, as Wired’s Robert McMillan explains, a gamification element helps. Reward users for checking in to give during a blood drive or checking in to attend a diversity event. This type of behavior can influence your employees’ coworkers, as a bandwagon effect can take place as people notice others checking in to events.

A more practical advantage to using geolocation tools in enterprise social media strategies is the ability to find someone. With remote teams, business travelers and people working from home becoming more common, if you know you’re trying to locate a specific person, you can better find out which time zone and office they’re in through a Foursquare-style application. More and more people are going into the office only occasionally. They are also traveling from city to city and office to office. An enterprise geolocation tool would help people know where everyone is on any given day.

For example, if I need to find Joe, instead of going into the office and hoping he is there, I can see where he is (e.g., another office, coffee shop, etc.) and go there. I can also tell who else is in the office when I am there and make a point to see them. As we do more homeshoring and working remotely, face-to-face encounters become more important and cherished. A Foursquare-type application helps bring people together without scheduling a formal meeting.

Is now the time for an enterprise check in?  You tell us.