Of Blimps & Badges: Foursquare Marketing Goes Sky High

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About a year ago, everyone from Mashable’s Pete Cashmore to The New York Times declared Foursquare the next big thing in social media. Keyboards clacked around the globe dishing the possibilities of how Foursquare’s location-based network could potentially promote the heck out of small businesses and struggling non-profits. Still, we had our doubts about Foursquare. Really, how powerful could a site possibly be that hands out imaginary badges and awards users with goofy titles?

Turns out, pretty darn powerful. A year later, companies big and small have joined the Foursquare game – and we’ve only seen the beginning of how strong Foursquare promotion can be. For further evidence of big-time Foursquare promotions, just look up in the sky.

Conan O’Brien and his team know his fan base consists of heavy users of social media. They’ve marketed his new TBS show shamelessly using every social media outlet available. So when news of a giant orange Conan blimp that awards Foursquare users with special badges hit this week, we weren’t surprised that fans of the big redhead started buzzing at a deafening volume. How the promotion works is pretty standard Foursquare stuff: spot the Conan blimp, which currently is travelling along the East Coast for an entire month, check in with Foursquare and unlock a special Conan badge. Team Coco has a live cam that tracks the blimp’s whereabouts on a continuously-updated map.

The Foursquare promo has crossed over into other social media, too. O’Brien’s Twitter account is tweeting special clues where to spot the blimp next. So far, the giant blimp has earned its keep. News of the Conan blimp has hit local TV stations and newspapers as well as message boards since taking off at the beginning of the month.

While the giant orange blimp isn’t exactly everybody’s cup of tea (and could be Exhibit A in the trial of whether social media marketing is out of control), it cannot be denied that O’Brien & Co. is employing Foursquare promotion in a totally original way.

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