Foursquare sounds like fun. We’ve said it before: as a location-based social networking platform, it is able to engage mobile users to explore neighborhoods, do “check-ins”, find friends, play social city games, unlock cool badges, win “Mayorships”, and earn points and rewards. And thanks to its innovative social mechanics, Foursquare is making city after city a social media playground.
Let’s admit it, though. Foursquare doesn’t sound business-y. It doesn’t exactly have the feel of a traditional corporate strategy – and if you had to present this in the boardroom to your marketing director or CEO, you might be disposed to think you’re speaking in a language that they can’t understand.
Here’s some good news. Foursquare – if leveraged properly – is as viable a marketing tool as any, perfect for boosting your business.
Foursquare users check-in at all kinds of places – cafes, bars, shops, malls, hotels, restaurants, parks, homes, offices, recreational areas, day spa, and events, among many others. The next place they check into could be yours. As a business owner or marketer, you can thus manage this social media platform to make sure that, when Foursquare users are exploring the city, they don’t miss you, and that, if they do check into your place, they get the best customer experience possible.
After all, it’s an increasingly mobile world. Even though it sounds like it’s all fun and games, Foursquare is a great way to reach out to loyal customers and prospects with iPhones, Blackberrys, Androids, and other smart mobile devices.
Get listed, at the very least. Remember when, in the name of local search or local business SEO, you had to get listed on Google Local, Yahoo! Local, the online yellow pages, the local city guides (like AOL Local and Yelp), and other web-based geocentric portals? Well – add Foursquare to that list (even if you don’t think you’re going to use Foursquare anyway). Not only does this help you gain greater visibility in local search engines; it also allows mobile customers to find you more easily – in a way that’s as simple as giving directions and providing contact information.

Use and promote the specials. Foursquare has a variety of customizable “Specials”, all of which are great at enticing customers to your venue and encouraging return visits.

  • Mayor Specials can be unlocked by the “Mayor” – or single most loyal customer – of your venue. Example: “You’re the Mayor of our venue? That’s a free dessert for you!”
  • Check-in Specials can be unlocked by Foursquare users who check into your venue a certain number of times. Example: “According to Foursquare, you’ve been here 10 times. That’s 20 percent off your order.”
  • Frequency-based Specials are unlocked every X check-ins. Example: “Every 5th time you check into our venue, you’re entitled to a free gift certificate!”
  • Wildcard Specials can be unlocked by verifying extra conditions. Example: “Show us your Foursquare Newbie Badge and your first beer is on us.”

Coming up with innovative promotions and privileges for these Specials isn’t any different from your usual customer loyalty program or weekend sale. What is different is that you’re engaging with users of social media, over which your marketing efforts can resonate louder and more clearly than if you were simply handing out glossy brochures. Foursquare Specials, moreover, provide a simple, relevant, and engaging way of putting customer relationships first – and making them last.
Check your analytics and data. With Foursquare’s set of real-time analytics, you can track how your venue is performing and find out what you can do to increase your level of engagement with customers. Key stats include: most recent visitors, most frequent visitors, the time of day people check in, total number of unique visitors, graphs of check-ins per day, breakdown of your customers’ gender, Foursquare check-ins broadcast to Facebook and Twitter, and more. To gain access to this information, all you have to do is claim your venue on Foursquare and officially get listed.
Encourage people to post reviews. In this increasingly social world, people will want to eat where their friends have eaten, and party where the best crowds are partying. So encourage your most loyal customers to post reviews of your product/ service, and then make them feel really special by rewarding them with a discount or freebie. Along the way, you’re putting yourself in a position to make new fans and drive more customers to your venue.
Use the charity angle. Why not? Let users check in for charity. It’s great to have a group of people come together for a cause. It makes them feel good about being able to help other people – and it makes your brand look good. Foursquare is great for supporting local charities because 1) it’s a very social platform for instant engagement, and 2) it has a points structure whereby charity supporters can see – in measurable form – the impact of what they are doing.
Find out how you can improve. With Foursquare, you can create a to-do list which users can then perform to earn points and rewards. (This list shows up in your Foursquare venue page.) Why not assign a task that allows you to gain valuable customer feedback? Ask people which item in your menu they like the most, or what you can do to help serve them better.
Give insider tips to Foursquare users. Let’s face it: customers love the feeling of being an “insider”; it’s part of the whole social experience of belonging. So leave crumbs on the Foursquare path for users to discover you. Simple tips like which bands perform at your venue on weeknights, or which landmark one should be on the lookout for to get to your place, or which tables have power sockets underneath for laptop users. Not only do these things add a vibe of cool to your venue; they also encourage “insiders” to let others in on what your business and brand has to offer.