Foursquare-Yelp 'War' Looks More Like a Copycat Fight

Brands' recent moves in the geo-social space mirror each other's core products.

While some pundits are saying that Yelp and Foursquare are at war, it’s actually starting to look more like a copycat fight. Each firm’s most recent move represents an idea the other has already executed.

On Monday, San Francisco-based Yelp announced via its blog that marketers with a presence on its site can now utilize a “check-ins” statistic. The stat will allow businesses to measure how often Yelp smartphone app users physically visit them. Since users must take a moment to check-in at a location while employing the app, it should give those marketers a sense of how important – or unimportant – the restaurants-oriented social site is to their patrons.

Yelp, which launched its check-in feature last January, will include the stat in its weekly user data e-mail that its business members receive as a customized report. It also announced the following app-based metrics on Monday: how many people viewed a business page; how many people called a business via the mobile app; and, how many people generated walking/driving directions to a business.

The check-ins stat, in particular, mirrors a feature that Foursquare unveiled for its metrics dashboard in March. At the same time, Yelp has long been mailing out window stickers to small businesses in order to strengthen the brand offline – and now Foursquare is mimicking that tactic.

On Friday, the New York-based company sent out what it’s calling “Foursquare Clings” to thousands of retail locations that have a business page on Foursquare. One of the window stickers says “foursquare CHECK-IN HERE” (see image lower-right), while TechCrunch recently reported that another version will read “Foursquare Special Here.”

Whole Foods has reportedly agreed to put the stickers up in 30 of its locations around the country. The supermarket chain declined to comment for this story.


At any rate, Foursquare has encouraged businesses that receive a window sticker to take a picture of it in their storefront and then post the photo on Twitter via the hashtag #4sqcling. One company that has already posted a picture is Snapperz Family Fun. Bryan Whitaker, a supervisor who runs the Lafayette, IN-based games center’s social media strategy, said his company received the window sticker on Tuesday.

Whitaker said that when he recently filled out a Foursquare form to verify Snapperz Family Fun’s commercial identity, at the end of the online process, he was asked if he wanted a “Cling” sent to the place of business. Interestingly, he said that Foursquare – which has been backlogged with verification requests for weeks – has yet to complete Snapperz’s verification process, but mailed the window sticker nonetheless. Businesses have to be verified before they can run specials on Foursquare’s geo-location platform.

Whitaker said that he had self-made “Check-in With Foursquare” signs up in his business already, but was now happy to be able to display an official decal. “Anything that already includes the registered trademark brand always looks better than some poster I can make with Photoshop,” he explained.

Another small business that has received the window sticker, Nicky Doodles, hopes it helps in getting local customers on Foursquare. “I don’t think we have a significant amount of people [using the geo-social app],” said Tim Twoomey, owner of the Verona, NY-based ice cream shop. “Personally, I think it’s a good idea. But it hasn’t caught on here yet. We are not in New York City or anything, and I think it’s been more popular in bigger cities so far.”

Meanwhile, the moves by Foursquare and Yelp come on the heels of other instances in which they have appeared to be copycatting one another. For instance, two weeks ago, Foursquare began showing up at the bottom of The Wall Street Journal’s restaurant reviews, which – in the user-generated realm, at least – has always been Yelp’s terrain. And then Yelp announced that users can become “dukes” and “duchesses” if they check-in at individual businesses more than any other person on the app. Of course, such titles are similar to Foursquare’s “mayor” system.

Follow Christopher Heine on Twitter at @ChrisClickZ.


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