Location-based social network Foursquare and similar apps are all about leading people to do interesting things — and maybe motivating them to make a purchase, said Foursquare director of business development Tristan Walker.

Foursquare is a little bit of a city guide, and a little bit of a friend finder, he continued. Gamelike attributes motivate people to keep coming back. The mobile app senses the location of the user, who “checks in” to various venues and can leave tips, a comment and see who else is there. Users compete to be “mayor” of a place by checking in there the most and unlocking badges based on points.

This story first appeared in the June 30, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Starbucks was already the most checked-into venue on Foursquare, but the number of check-ins increased 40 to 50 percent when the company ran a promotion giving mayors of each location $1 off any size frappuccino. One mayor tweeted that she always bought drip coffee but tried the more expensive type thanks to the promotion.

Although only slightly more than a year old, Foursquare has worked with Marc Jacobs, Jimmy Choo, Bravo Television, Zagat, MTV, The New York Times, Lucky magazine and Pepsi. The service has 1.6 million users and is growing 50 percent a month.

Monique’s Chocolates in Palo Alto, Calif., ran a buy-one-get-one-free promotion on Foursquare and gave out more than 150 redemptions. Simultaneously, the same offer ran for a month in a local newspaper at the cost of $300, and no one redeemed the offer, said Walker.

Foursquare is free to retailers, unless they design a custom badge, such as Lucky magazine’s “Elite Shopper” badge.

Jimmy Choo created a Foursquare campaign by giving a shoe a personality and Twitter and Foursquare accounts. The first Foursquare user to encounter the shoe in person won a free pair of shoes.

“You can give away experiences, and experiences are free,” said Walker.

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