Foursquare is the leading location-based service (Gowalla‘s second) that empowers consumers to share their visits with local attractions, events and businesses. In light of the massive growth, competitive nature of Foursquare and valuable “landing pages” that the site provides, many business owners aren’t leveraging it for organic, viral marketing. Yes, I used “viral marketing,” but trust me, it is.
Marketing your business on Foursquare can be performed a variety of ways and delivers value for prospects and customers. Marketing on Foursquare isn’t necessarily evil — people voluntarily check-in publicly and earn rank as well. From what I can tell, it appears Foursquare plans to open up additional opportunities for businesses to gain analytics and measurement on their establishment — and probably will monetize it, too.
Unlike Yelp!, the interactions as pseudo anonymous and don’t require much engagement from people. This offers one strong benefit: low barrier to entry. Likewise, it also introduces a limitation: limited engagement. Either way, it introduces several new opportunities for a brick-and-mortar business to engage with their local community to make it an attractive hub for prospects and customers.
10 Ways a Small Business can Leverage Foursquare:
- Discounts for Foursquare Engagement. While not the most altruistic in nature, a business could reward people and raise awareness of their presence on Foursquare by letting people know they can get a percentage discount when they check in. I wouldn’t put much of a discount for it only because how easily it is to check in. However, it would be a great way to grow a business’ check-ins on Foursquare.
- Monthly Raffles on Foursquare. Similar to above, why not offer people to check in to be entered into a raffle? It seems more logical and can narrow down the cost of marketing on Foursquare and keep it competitive. Raffles are a great way to capitalize on multiple check-ins.
- Discover Your Alpha-Dogs. Everyone needs a wingman once in a while. For a business, these are their repeat, engaged and loyal customers. If a business owner wants feedback on how to improve and make the establishment better, the best people to ask are the people who check in frequently (dubbed, Mayors on Foursquare). Solicit their feedback and perhaps invite them and their friends with a strong discount. Again, I’m not too much in favor of bribery, but if it feels right, go for it.
- Consistent Branding and Information. When you manage your Foursquare presence, it’s a good idea to include the proper branding (casing, spacing, etc) so people can recognize it later when they check in. It’s helpful to provide the phone number and address so people who visit the 4sq page will be able to quickly give you a call and ask questions.
- SEO. Not necessarily a topic I would put weight in for marketing on Foursquare; however, Foursquare provides an opportunity for visitors to add tags for the establishment and these get indexed in search. They don’t become indexed too frequently, but a properly tagged and described business is one that’s visible.
- Fun and Creative To-Dos. Pay attention to what others list in your To-Do’s. Did someone add a to-do of, “check out the hot mess in the bathroom?” If so, make changes stat and make it clear to your customers you pay attention and (actually pay attention) to make the environment a chill one that invites people to put positive ideas down. As a suggestion, share a few creative, witty things to do in your establishment or secret phrases to ask your staff for things. To-Dos are underutilized and could be a huge asset to a business.
- Give Mayors a Real Duty. Mayor status on Foursquare is given to people who check in the most in a period of two months. Reward Mayorships with a sense of community and true status. For instance, let the Mayor choose the next set of decor, music for the month or the next “Flavor of the month.” This has a lot of potential to help give your customers something to compete for and make them a part of your community.
- Treat Foursquare as a Community. When I say treat, I mean interact with them as a community. Understand that now more than ever, people on Foursquare are tech-savvy, opinionated and have the means to say a lot about you and your business. This community is great because they will help get the word out “virally” about your business. You can help keep it a functioning community by giving it a sense of elitism, exclusivity and entitlement. For instance, introduce a “Foursquare Friday” and allow people who checked into 4sq that month free cover or priority seating.
- (Controversial) Spy on Your Visitors. Now I could earn a little more flack for this, and you’re totally right. With Foursquare, you can learn where people have gone before checking-in to your establishment. You can also spy on them to see where they came from and go next. The evil part of this is you can advertise and work out joint-ventures with the more popular venues with your visitors and strum up more business. To take it up to the next level, spy on your competitors’ Foursquare and see if you identify any strategic opportunities.
- Serve and Impress Customers. I will suggest you take a moment and just be personable and interact with customers. Greet them, know them and serve them. No amount of Foursquare marketing can salvage poor service. Period. Foursquare, like any other social media service will only amplify the sentiment, tone and perceptions from others — make sure you set a good one and all the other mechanics will fall right in line.
I bet you liked #10, didn’t you? I’m just being honest. Make a difference and inspire your customers to talk about you. Be creative, be funny and be unique. Foursquare is there to help customers talk about your business and let their friends know they are there getting awesome service.
If you played your cards right, you might get a swarm.