Foursquare games Twitter, moves into local ads

Fledgling social networking site Foursquare has a new trick up its sleeve that may lure users from Twitter.

While Twitter has a strong foothold, a celebrity following and heavy media presence, Foursquare is poised to rapidly gain ground by connecting with local advertisers. Twitter is very organic, notorious for not having a business plan and lacking a clear way to check some cheddar. Clever Foursquare is strategically targeting local businesses in a bid to grow networks and get more users playing. The company recently hooked up with 8Coupons, which lacks the social nature of Foursquare- it will be interesting to see how that pans out. The competitive aspect is a draw as well- Robert Scoble posted about the addictive nature of getting points for doing the stuff you do normally, and becoming "mayor" of local bars and restaurants:

The game gives you points for doing various checkins. If you do a lot of checkins everyday you get more points. You also get badges (which are sort of like achievements on Xbox games) for doing various things. For instance, I checked in so much at the Half Moon Bay Ritz that I became the Mayor of that location. It's a lot of fun and great bragging rights.

Yeah, still sounds lame, huh?

But I think this lame little location game is going to be bigger than Twitter.

Why? Because eventually businesses will learn that this is an even better way to engage with customers than Twitter is.

Why? Because when you know your customers location the way this game is going to let you know you can really do some wild offers.

He goes on to predict that it will be less than "400 days" before Oprah's playing Foursquare.

Foursquare's "for business" page highlights some examples of offers for users, with businesses often offering mayoral privileges like happy hour pricing or free beer. The reciprocal nature has an incredible amount of potential, because it really fires up users and businesses to connect as much as possible for maximum benefits and loyalty points- like a free coffee every so often at your local coffee shop. The more you use it, the more you get from it in terms of rewards on both sides of the equation. And the interface awards users with badges based on their socializing habits, some of which are city-specific. In NYC, there are badges like "Brooklyn 4 Life" after 25 checkins in BK, "Far Far Away" in the unlikely event anyone ventures above 59th Street and "I'm On A Boat," which appears to be related to water proximity.

I have to admit to not using it much, though it seems to have a lot of promise. Long Island, full of bedroom communities to Manhattan, hasn't been added to the network, so those of us who are city-local but telecommute have to watch from the sidelines for the time being. Which is a shame, because metro areas like this one have a lot of promise as far as venues go- but that also may change. When cash flowed into the start-up earlier this month, Foursquare announced plans to allow users to populate the venue listings. Where's our "Amy Fisher" badge for too many trips to the Massapequa Mall?