A new social network just hit London: Foursquare.com.
Already big in the US, I am willing to stick my neck out and predict that this will develop faster in London than swine-flu.
If you're just getting your head around Twitter, you'll need to step one step further to "get" Foursquare. Once you do, I think you'll realise this has huge potential, as a network phenomenon and as a marketing tool.
OK - so you log into Foursquare.com and create an account. What next? You invite others to join and be your "friends" (just like Facebook). You then download the Foursquare app to your smart phone. Ready.
Now, you are on the move, you go out in the evening, and when you arrive at a place (bar, restaurant, concert venue, event, coffee shop, whatever), you "check in". On your phone you simply load the app, it uses the phone's location to identify known venues in the area and you select the one you're at. Simple as that. Then - you can see which of your other friends are also there. Maybe there's friends that are out on the town that you didn't know were out on the town. You decide to hook up on the fly.
Here's the bit you need to pay attention to if you are a restaurant.
First of all, make sure you are listed. The initial list of London restaurants is seeded by WCities, and there's loads missing. Once logged in you can add your place in the "add things" link in the menu. If you're listed, people will be able to "check-in" to your venue easily.
Secondly, there's a competitive element to FourSquare. The person who checks in the most to a venue becomes that venue's "mayor". This person is your most loyal Foursquare customer. They will be visiting you a lot.
This means that you can create a loyalty scheme on this platform. "If you are our mayor, simply present your phone and you will get a free drink". As people to compete to become your mayor, you get mentioned in a whole Facebook / Twitter universe and your brand awareness soars. It's all online and it's all free.
Sounds far fetched? Maybe this year it won't be, but I can see this becoming big for a certain demographic. Huge. The future is just around the corner.
Here's a useful blog post on how to get the most out of Foursquare.com as a user.