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Using Foursquare for Business

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Many business owners are realizing the potential that some of the online tools have to enhance their marketing efforts and generate more business. One of the tools in the news recently is Foursquare, a geo-location service that is being used by businesses to reward people for coming to their location and telling their friends that they are there.

Here’s how it works for the customer. When you arrive at restaurant, store or mall, you “check-in” (Foursquare’s term) on your mobile device (Android, Palm, Blackberry, and iPhone), cell phone, or computer, and your friends will be able to find your location on a Foursquare map. There is usually an incentive given by the owner of the store for checking in such as collecting points, prize “badges,” discounts and coupons. Those who check in the most to a venue in the last 60 days become the “mayor” of that venue and then become entitled to mayor discounts, free items, and other incentives.

For those concerned about the safety of this type of service note that only your Foursquare friends are able to access information about your whereabouts, and only if you choose to let them know.

So what’s in it for the business owner? Foursquare works for you by offering potential customers incentives for using your business. They offer points to those checking-in frequently, or at a certain time, and tells them what they have to do to unlock giveaways, or discounts such as a free snack or discounted drink. If they happen to be across the street or two blocks away from your venue, they’ll let them know that your business gives special treatment to foursquare users and that they should swing by for a visit. Foursquare check-ins can also be broadcast to Twitter and Facebook users for even more distribution. Many business owners are now promoting their involvement with Foursquare via Twitter, through their email newsletter, signs at cash registers and sidewalk blackboards. Businesses using the service can monitor individual and total foursquare user activity and offer targeted customer rewards and specials.

There are different types of Foursquare specials as described below and on the foursquare.com website:

  • Mayor Specials unlocked only by the Mayor of your venue. Who’s the Mayor? It’s your single most loyal customer! (the user who has checked in the most in the last 60 days)
    (“Foursquare has deemed you the Mayor? Enjoy a free order of french fries!”)
  • Check-in Specials: unlocked when a user checks in to your venue a certain number of times.
    (“Foursquare says you’ve been here 10 times? That’s a free drink for you!”)
  • Frequency-based Specials: are unlocked every X check-ins.
    (“Foursquare users get 20% off any entree every 5th check-in!”)
  • Wildcard Specials: always unlocked, but your staff has to verify some extra conditions before awarding the Special.
    (“Show us your foursquare Swarm badge and get a free drink!”)

Foursquare now has over 500,000 registered users and in one day alone this year, had over 275,000 check-ins. The geo-location technology is also being used, or being considered for use, by other social networking sites like Twitter and Yelp to name a few.

Some companies currently using the technology and incentive program include Starbucks where you can earn a “Barista badge” by checking in five times. In total, Foursquare reports that it now has 1.4 million venues logged in its system, with 1,200 businesses offering special deals to people that check-in via Foursquare.

To measure the effectiveness of the service and gather more detailed information on customers Foursquare is rolling out a free analytics program that will provide businesses with detailed information on who is checking-in to their locations, and give them the ability to communicate with the visitors. Information that can be tracked includes:

  • most recent visitors
  • most frequent visitors
  • the time of day people check in
  • total number of unique visitors
  • histogram of check-ins per day
  • gender breakdown of customers
  • portion of foursquare check-ins broadcast to Twitter and Facebook

As with most social networking sites the ultimate goal of businesses is to develop more engaging, long-term relationships with their customers. Foursquare is one of the many ways businesses can use the social networking technology to provide incentives and rewards for doing business- especially if your goal is to cultivate and retain customers that are using the latest technology in their daily lives.

Copyright 2010 by Wayne Kessler

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