This is a guest post written by Jordan Maslyn. Jordan Maslyn is a web designer and avid foursquare user.
Have you “checked in” recently? No, I’m not talking about your hotel reservations or telling your significant other where you are so they don’t get worried. I’m talking about foursquare (@foursquare on Twitter). Maybe you’ve already seen people “checking in” via Twitter or Facebook or maybe you haven’t heard a thing about it, but you will be hearing about it soon enough, and here’s why…
Foursquare is all about location, location, location. The tech world is calling it the new Twitter, and for small business entrepreneurs, especially those with restaurants or retail locations, it is imperative to be using foursquare for marketing purposes as more and more people begin to use their service.
foursquare is an essential social media marketing tool, but what is it?
Foursquare is all about checking in where you are using their free iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Palm, or computer applications, or even via text message. This lets users see where their friends are eating or hanging out and also see what their friends recommend at certain venues. So, if a user happens to be dining at Zenko (one of my favorite local sushi spots with all-you-can-eat sushi for under $25!), then they would want to “check in”. This lets all their friends on foursquare (and Facebook/Twitter if they choose) know that they are there. Here is Benefit #1 for entrepreneurs; if you are the owner of Zenko Sushi, now everyone in their social circle has been introduced to your restaurant.
But what motivates people to check in regularly?
Well, here is where foursquare has set themselves apart from a lot of the other geolocation services out there. They have made a competitive game of it. First of all, users get rewarded with points every time they check in. Points will set users up on a leaderboard and if they are competitive at all, they want to be as high on that leaderboard as possible. Not only do they get points, but they can earn badges for accomplishing certain things (like the Local badge for checking into the same place 3x in one week, or the Super User badge for checking in 30x in a month) which also promotes regular user activity. And, the last reason people want to check in? Well, that’s Benefit #2 for us entrepreneurs, mayorships! If you are the person most regularly checking in at any given venue, then you become the mayor.
Businesses are already using mayorships as a customer loyalty program. If a customer can show you that they are the mayor of your business, you offer them a reward! If you are a bar, you can offer one free drink per night to your mayor, or if you are a retail store, you can offer a 10% discount to your mayor. You name your reward, and your customers want to keep coming back so that they can remain mayor and keep receiving their reward. This creates a lot of competition between foursquare users, because they have incentive to come to your business more often to become mayor. The greater the reward is for the mayor, the more foursquare users will want to compete for that mayorship by visiting your business.
Customer loyalty is great, but can I capture new business?
Absolutely! Aside from Benefit #1 (your customers already promoting your business to their entire social circle online), foursquare also has Benefit #3; built-in, nearby Tips. These Tips offer a few benefits to entrepreneurs. Number one, is if a user opens their foursquare app (on their computer, iPhone, Blackberry, Palm, or Android), they can see all the local places around them as well as any Tips that customers have left (like “Go to Boneheads and order the Mahi Mahi with Pineapple Salsa and Grilled Zucchini as your side – all this with rice too for under $10 and less than 400 calories!!!”), which means automatic, free marketing for those businesses! Even better, this marketing is targeted to people who are close by and can readily visit your business.
Benefit #4 is also derived from the local Tips. Just the other day, I checked in at Pei-Wei Asian Diner, and do you know what popped up? A Tip from foursquare that a fellow foursquare friend enjoyed a nearby cupcake bakery. Without any searching on my part, foursquare knew that I was close to Frostings (the bakery) and that a friend had previously recommended it, so foursquare figured I would be interested (and I was!) so they told me about it. This is HUGE for entrepreneurs! Not only does foursquare pop up friend’s recommendations, but they have recently been establishing partnerships with various brands and companies and will recommend businesses based on those partnerships. One such partnership is with the Bravo Channel, where they recommend local businesses to foursquare users based on the reviews provided by the stars of their network programs. You can read more info about the Bravo/foursquare par
tnership on foursquare’s website.
And finally, Benefit #5 is the ability to sign up with foursquare as a business so that they will tell users about your mayor offers in their app like the screenshots below. This will draw more attention to your business as users come within range of you, and with special offers, you will be able to entice potential customers to visit your restaurant or storefront that may have not even known about your business!
Foursquare (and geolocation in general) is definitely the next big thing in social media, whether you’re an entrepreneur or an avid consumer of local businesses, or both. So go check it out and talk to your social media expert to see how foursquare fits into your brand and social media strategy.
This article was written by Jordan Maslyn, Creative Director at Sixth Degree Designs, a web design and social media marketing company. Follow Jordan on Twitter: @jordanmaslyn