Local Business Marketing on Foursquare

April 8th, 2010 by Paula Keller French

While many companies are still figuring out Facebook and Twitter as a means of local business marketing, a whole new social media is beginning to break into the mainstream. While the underlying idea is to keep you connected, just as other social media networks, foursquare takes it to the next level.

local business marketing on foursquare

It’s also similar to other outlets in such ways that you connect to people you know by adding them as a “friend,” but past that, this new location-based app sets itself apart by integrating the service into everyday activities, being primarily mobile-based, and serving as a “tap and go” app, with which it  doesn’t take much longer to interact than it does to send a text message to a friend letting them know where you’re having your coffee.

Foursquare’s goal is to make you more social, not less, by encouraging users to go from place to place by way of “checking in” to each restaurant, bar, coffee shop (or even doctors’ office, store, airport) that they visit. Upon checking into a venue, a user sees who is currently the mayor (who has checked in here more than anyone else), and who recently checked in to that location. At any point in time, a user can see a list of their friends and where their friends have checked into recently, with an emphasis put on friends in your city, and pushing those in other cities to the bottom of the list. The idea behind this is that seeing where your friend in Denver is checking in doesn’t contribute to your foursquare community if you’re in Savannah.

Users get “badges” for certain behavior such as checking into the same place three times a week (“local” badge) or going to four different venues in one night (“crunked” badge).

Local Business Marketing through Badges

So, what does all of this mean for your local business marketing? Some larger businesses at this point have had the opportunity to have badges related to check ins to their business added to the system. While we haven’t found if this feature will be available to small businesses in the future, we hope that it will, because badges are one of the big ways users can be encouraged to patronize and check in at YOUR business.

For now, though, the local business marketing benefits are still great, and, most importantly, FREE! By going to foursquare.com, you can sign up your business to offer a foursquare special. So, when a user checks into a business within a block or two of your location, a “Specials Nearby” icon will pop up, on which they can click to see that your nearby business is offering a free bottle of wine on someone’s fourth check-in on foursquare, or a free pizza for the mayor. This means you get to market directly to people who shop and do business near your location already, who are already more likely to hit up your location than they are a similar business across town. Foursquare specials are also a way to reward loyal regulars. You can offer “free upgrade on every fourth check in”  or “complimentary dessert on your 10th check in.”

local business marketing pie

Each time an individual checks in to your business is a little free slice of marketing pie. By way of check-ins, users are telling their friends “I love the coffee at The Daily Brew!” and most of the time, users literally are telling their friends exactly what they like at a certain business by adding a comment that says something like “Iced Vanilla Latte – best in the city!” Small businesses can encourage patrons to pass the word on foursquare about a certain product by offering something to those who add a comment to their check-in or leaving a “tip” for a particular business.

If you don’t want to solicit tips or check-in comments, you can still use them to your advantage by going to your business’s page on foursquare and seeing what people are saying about your business, its products, its atmosphere, etc. It’s your ticket to un-biased reviews! The most important part of this is to make use of the information you discover. Even the simplest thing as someone mentioning “bring a power strip if your planning to use your laptop,” can help you make your business more comfortable for patrons that enjoy working at your business, who are most likely to become regulars, if they aren’t already.

While foursquare’s website and this post may allude to foursquare being geared towards the food and beverage industry, it really can be used for all places of business. Think retail customers leaving tips about sales, patients leaving comments about how quickly and smoothly their visit to the doctor was, or guests talking about how helpful the concierge service at your hotel is.

No matter who you are or what you offer, you can put foursquare to work in your local business marketing plan!

Thanks to dpstyles and psmith for the great images.