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Barbie is messing around with Foursquare.

CNET reports:
With a camera on her chest and an LCD screen on her back, the newest Barbie doll will kick off sales with a Foursquare-powered scavenger hunt in four cities across the U.S.

The hunt–which begins Tuesday in San Francisco before heading to Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York–asks Barbie fans to follow the locations of Barbie Roberts (her full name) on social geo-tagging service Foursquare and physically meet her and her promotional street team at those locations.

The first Barbie fan to show up and check in wins a $50 Video Girl Barbie doll.

By using Foursquare and other integrated social media such as Twitter and Facebook, the Barbie team hopes to increase its presence and buzz online.

Here is the problem with this approach:

Barbie and her army of marketers are trying to sell a child’s toy a channel not used by children.   

In effect, the now geriatric, former blonde hottie is the latest victim of social media shiny object chasing.

The desire to be cool and hip to new things can prove costly and counter-productive.

So, if you want run any sort of social media program, examine spaces in the context of “Why this space?” and “Why us in this space?”

You will probably get different answers for each space you choose to play in.

For instance, with my business we asked “why Facebook?” The answer was easy (as it probably is for EVERY biz these days). It was, simply, “Because everyone we know uses FB.”

With Twitter it was a bit different for us. Stats differ, but have shown that in the province of Quebec (where we live), Twitter is less widely used than in other places – markedly so. However, the foodie community in Montreal is BIG into Twitter (and almost all big MTL food bloggers are very active on the service). So, while the VOLUME of target clients was low, the number of INFLUENCERS playing with Twitter was high. We needed to be there. 

We have a presence on Foursquare, but run no promotions with the service for now. Why? Two reasons: we wanted to get our house in order in other social spaces first and we believe that the return on effort for Foursquare promos is very low at this time. We need a presence – again because Foursquare users tend to be digital cognoscenti – but only a limited one for now. We neglected to chase Gowalla as a shiny object because usage is low and I don’t believe it will take off in Canada (or maybe anywhere). 

Barbie’s marketers did not ask “Why Foursquare?” Their efforts will be wasted and the press they’ll garner over this will all be under the rubric of “These clowns don’t know what they’re doing.”  

Don’t make the same mistake. Ask “Why this space?” and “Why us in this space?” You’ll save tonnes of money and effort.

Want to know more about researching where your prospect go in terms of social spaces? Read this. 

I’d love to hear what you think about Barbie and Foursquare in particular, or the broader topic of picking which social spaces to devote your time to.

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