Foursquare Evolves Beyond a Game

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Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley told CNN in an interview at South by Southwest that he’s focused on growing his business, which hit the 2.6 million check-ins this past weekend thanks to frenetic checking-in at SXSW. More than half of those check-ins took place outside the US.

Having just launched Foursquare 3.0, he also told Mashable founder Pete Cashmore in another SXSW Q&A (above) that the plan is to evolve the check-in to more than just a social game, collecting badges and becoming mayor of _____. 

Crowley aims to translate that check-in data to better connect users with their passions and dreams, to make cities easier to use, and generally keep things “interesting and fun” for its users.[more]

He’s especially excited about Foursquare’s Venue API, which lets other developers play with Foursquare’s data and come up with their own apps and innovations.

“Right now, there’s no Rosetta Stone for location allowing you to link information about a real-world place from one database to any other,” notes the Foursquare blog about the open API launch, whose partners already include the New York Times, Thrillist, MenuPages and New York magazine. 

Another project that garnered a lot of buzz at SXSW: Foursquare’s pilot loyalty program with American Express, which rewarded Foursquare users with $5 when they charge $5 or more on their American Express card at participating merchants. The partnership marked the kick-off to AmEx’s own move to transform its member rewards into social currency.

Partnering with over fifty local merchants on the “spend $5, get $5” deals, AmEx card cardholders simply checked into the app on their smartphones, click a “Load to Card” button and swipe their cards. 

It’s not a money-maker for Foursquare, but rather an influencer and experiment, and AmEx reaches a younger, hipper, tech-savvy cohort and moves into the mobile world of electronic payments (read: the holy grail of monetization).

“A big part of what we’re doing is building enhanced loyalty tools. We’re seeing that things like this can drive users,” commented Crowley to Business Insider.

Along with Foursquare’s 3.0 for iPhone and Android with an updated recommendations engine that generates suggestions based on previous check-ins, the other big buzz about Foursquare was still the Foursquare founders’ recent Gap ad, which featured Crowley and his business partner Naveen Salvudurai in Gap’s holiday 2010 “Want” campaign.

They’re also featured in the USA Network’s new “Character Approved” campaign featuring a dozen movers and shakers. The trick, now, is to keep Foursquare hotter than its founders are becoming.

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