Learning Foursquare Plus 10 Things a Small Business Can Do to Benefit
Foursquare. A social network? A game? Yes to both, and it’s gaining popularity, and fast.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- What foursquare is, and a general overview
- Where to sign up for foursquare plus some goodies and insider links
- How to get your business on board with foursquare
- Links to other fantastic articles about foursquare
Let’s dive in…
Foursquare is a location based social network that’s a combination of social utility and a game. Users sign up for accounts, and voluntarily “check in” at various locations that they go to. The more users check in at the same locations, they increase the liklihood that they can become “mayor” of that location. You can also earn other badges for being out and about frequently, getting coffee from Starbucks a lot, etc etc. Further, you earn points for every check-in — unless of course you check-in at the same place all the time. You’re rewarded with more points for being adventurous (exploring different places), for checking out multiple spots in one night, and eventually for the tips other people try and the to-dos you complete. Sounds like a lot of work, but it’s really not, and it’s actually quite fun. I know because I have a Foursquare account and have had it for a month or so. I’m by no means an expert, but I can say that I’m enjoying my experiment and I think it has a TON of potential.
So here’s some hard data for you. In my research, I uncovered that the iPhone users are the biggest user group for foursquare (I have an iPhone). Worthy of mention: 21% of American wireless subscribers have a smartphone at Q4 2009, up from 19% in the previous quarter and significantly higher than the 14% at the end of 2008.1 And that number is growing.
That being said, the service has mass appeal and so much so, that as of last week, they’re to almost one million check-ins per day. Yes, one million!
So how is this not an immense waste of time and just another time-suck (Ahem. Farmville)? Well, connecting with people always has value and if this can add a little fun to your day (and score you some cool new friends in the process) that’s a good thing, right?
But what about business?
It’s quickly becoming a tool for businesses to cash in on the rewards system on. Starbucks is an early adopter and rewards mayors of each location (nationwide) with this little gem: “as mayor of this store, enjoy $1 off a NEW however-you-want-it Frappuccino blended beverage. Any size, any flavor. Offer valid until 6/28.” It’s good to be mayor.
On a small scale, your business can benefit from this by creating your own offer. So far, it looks like retail businesses (they say bar and restaurants, but salons and other stores can too) will have the most opportunity here, but I don’t see why a different type of business couldn’t. The more people use the service, the more the incentives and rewards systems will make an impact.
We’ll keep you posted on how it works as time goes by.
In the meantime, here are some great pointers that Joe Manna wrote (great article Joe, these are fantastic!) that we plan to employ and hope you can benefit from too:
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.
Links you’ll want:
foursquare.com/signup (signing up)
foursquare.com/download (phone apps)
foursquare.com/businesses (getting your business in on the action)
thekruser.com/foursquare-badges (what the badges are and how to earn them)
whenwillibemayor.com (so you can see when you’ll be mayor of the venue of your choice!)
playfoursquare.s3.amazonaws.com/businesses/foursquare_checkin.pdf (sign to hang in your business)
playfoursquare.s3.amazonaws.com/businesses/foursquare_special.pdf (sign to hang in your business for specials)