I put this together for my boss to help him understand how Foursquare can be used to promote local business objectives.
What is it?
Foursquare is a social media platform that allows users to tell their friends where they are geographically. Their location is announced by telling the name of a business or point of interest such as ‘Starbucks’ or ‘Balboa Park’.
How does it work?
When a user visits Starbucks, they are able to pull up the corresponding Foursquare mobile application and ‘Check In’. When they do that it is announced to their foursquare friends where they are similar to a Facebook status update. Users are able to identify in real time who is currently at any given location and can use it as a medium to find and meet up with their friends. These ‘Check Ins’ can also be pushed to a variety of other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and dramatically expand the reach of these updates.
How to use it to promote a local business?
1. ‘Check Ins’ are Advertisements
‘Check Ins’ become advertisements to all of their friends and keeps your business top of mind. This dramatically increases when they’re posted to Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes good deals offered to Foursquare customers can incentivize telling their friends like this. Other times having a brand or business that would add to someone’s image is enough. For example, I might check into a fine dining restaurant and want to show off to all my friends that I’m eating there.
2. ‘Check Ins’ Bring Their Friends
‘Check Ins’ incentivize their friends to join them at that location. For example, if I check into a coffee shop and my friends that are a few blocks away notice and end up visiting the coffee shop to see me when they would have not done that otherwise.
3. Steal Customers
Deals found by being in a surrounding area can cause people to stop by your business when they otherwise would not have. This can drive foot traffic. For example, if I visit the mall and check into the mall itself, but then notice that Macy’s is offering a special deal* if I check in there. I might stop by Macy’s now to take advantage of that when I had never intended to visit there on my visit. If so, Macy’s may have just stolen my business from the store I actually went to the mall to go to. This can be really powerful because it is targeting people in a very close geographical range to your store and likely looking to spend money. It is a very effective and cheap way to increase foot traffic.
4. Increase Traffic
There can be competition in the Foursquare community over becoming the ‘Mayor’ or the most frequent user to ‘Check In’ and businesses can take advantage of that. Users often turn becoming and staying the ‘Mayor’ into a game that causes them to go out of their way at times to ‘Check In’ at a venue. This increases their personal social credibility stats but this is fueled even more when businesses offer a special deal only for the Mayor. For example, Hot dog on a stick offers a free lemonade* only to the mayor. Now customers will visit your business to try to get the deal.
5. Another Traffic Frequency Boost
Another, less exclusive way to offer an incentive is to give it to any customer who visits your business after a certain number of check ins. For example, a restaurant in downtown San Diego called ‘Currant’ offers a glass of Sangria or well cocktail for only $0.10 (ten cents) on your 3rd Check in. This is a way to reward and incentivize frequent customers and thus capitalize on the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule that states most businesses will get 80% of their business from 20% of their customers. This feature helps keep that 20% happy and coming back for more.
Let me know if you see the plausibility of using Foursquare as a business or a customer. Also let me know if you don’t and why.
*These deals were current as of the publication of this article.