Is It Time to Use Foursquare for Local Business?

Lots of people talk about how to use foursquare from the consumer’s perspective, but what advantage does foursquare for local businesses provide? First of all, foursquare is a social network with over 10M users. Like most social networks, the strength of this platform is that people share information with their friends and thus a simple check-in can get broadcast across Facebook, Twitter, and to the person’s foursquare friends. While not all these people will be local to your business, it’s a good bet some are, so it’s a form of advertising. Read on to learn how to set up foursquare and take advantage of it for your business.

If you aren’t familiar at all with foursquare, here’s a very quick overview. Essentially people download the free foursquare app to their smart phone and when they arrive at a destination, they check-in. They accumulate points for checking in, bringing friends, repeat business, etc and cash in on specials. They also earn badges which are created by foursquare and kept a bit of mystery as to exactly how you get them.

Getting started with foursquare for local business can be done in 4 simple steps done on the foursquare website:

  1. Set up a foursquare account if you don’t already have one
  2. Find your venue using their search form
  3. Claim the location of your venue
  4. Verify that you have the authority to manage the venue (by phone or email)

Once you are set up, foursquare provides you with free tools to promote and manage your presence. One of the best ways to encourage people to check in and bring their friends is with specials. Specials are simply offers that you give to new, frequent, or loyal customers when they check in at your establishment (called “unlocking” a special).

Here are the categories specials fall into and some examples:

  • Discount: Get 20% off on the purchase of one item, get $10 off when you spend $50
  • Free offer: Get a free silk tie with the purchase of a suit, get a free water bottle when you sign up for 3 months at Joe’s Gym
  • Special treatment: Check-in on foursquare to get a behind the scenes tour of (kitchen, wine cellar, special exhibit)
  • Reward: Free cupcake on 5th visit, free movie rental after 5th visit

Specials provide a range of rewards for new business, repeat business, and for bringing their friends. When you are starting out, consider offering different types of specials across the range to see what works best for your business. People will compete to be the major to get special perks.

Types of specials on foursquare for local business and some examples:

  • Newbie: First time someone visits, offer a discount, free item, etc.
  • Friends: Bring a friend (or 2 or 3, you choose) and get xxx
  • Flash: Similar to a door buster – first 20 people to check-in get xxx, everyone who checks in within 30 minutes gets xxx
  • Swarm: Determine a number of friends it takes to qualify and offer a deal – Bring 20 friends to Sally’s Kitchen and get one free cocktail or beverage with meal purchase
  • Check-in: Just for showing up – get a 10% discount off the purchase of a blouse or shirt
  • Loyalty: Offer something free on the 5th (or any number) visit
  • Mayor: This is the person with the most check-ins at your place in the last 60 days. Only one check-in per day is allowed. This is one of your most loyal customers, so be creative – a special table, no standing in line, private tasting, whatever you think will make that person feel special. You want people to compete to be the mayor because every check-in adds to the popularity of your business.

Part of the social appeal is that people can see what their friends are up to when they launch the foursquare app on their mobile phone. What badges they have, how many points they have, and if they are the mayor of anything. Also by using the Explore capability on the app, users can see what is close to them and what tips have been provided about the place. Tips are things that people who have checked-in at your business have to say about it, for example: “Great place for lunch” or “Always find something new here”.

There are many advantages of using foursquare. It’s free to sign up, you create specials for free, your business shows up in Facebook and Twitter timelines, and more. The cost? The only cost is your time to create the specials and the discounts or free items that you provide. Not a bad tradeoff. Is it time you join the over 250,000 merchants and start using foursquare for local business as part of your mobile marketing?