One of the most surprising phenomena about our increasingly digital world is the kind of information that users freely give about themselves when they feel it is not being unfairly extracted from them. Wise social marketers have realized that finding the right information to gather from users can yield a comfortable, secure experience for the users as well as providing marketers with valuable information that they normally wouldn’t have. One of the best players in this delicate balance is Foursquare.
Foursquare is a social networking program that allows people to play a game through their mobile devices. Users visit various locations in the real world. When a person arrives at a particular location, he or she “checks in” at a list of GPS-suggested nearby available locales. If the person has visited the location more often than any other users, he or she is made “mayor” of the location. Users can also unlock “badges,” which are special rewards for visiting specific places or accomplishing particular tasks. The users can also see where their friends have recently checked in, post suggestions and tips, and push all of their Foursquare updates to Twitter or Facebook.
After only a year, Foursquare reached 500,000 users in March 2010. In June 2010, that number had jumped to 1.8 million spread over several countries. Its users are also a dedicated bunch: with only half a million users in March 2010, there had been 15.5 million location check-ins.
How to Leverage Foursquare for Business
If the description hasn’t made it apparent, Foursquare is an enormously powerful tool for businesses, particularly small businesses like restaurants and bars that require a strong connection to local customers. Here are some of the best ways these businesses can leverage Foursquare.
1. Encourage users to fight for mayorships
Foursquare is a game: users compete to become the mayor of their favourite locations. You can make this competition more intense by offering incentives to users when they become mayor of your business. Starbucks, for instance, ran a deal in June that offered a $1 discount on frappuccinos at any Starbucks location. This sort of deal does not cost much money for Starbucks, and it encourages people to visit Starbucks locations frequently in hopes of becoming a mayor. Although users are not required to buy a beverage every time they check in, this special does make Starbucks more attractive when the users are considering multiple coffee options.
2. Make additional offers to reward the less competitive
Not everyone can be mayor of your business. Most mayorships tend to circulate between a few people who are very dedicated to Foursquare. If they are the only people who are getting any special deals, some people will give up on checking in at your business.
The best way to counter this is by offering “check-in” deals. After every tenth visit, give every user a deal, such as a discount or free product. Your loyal customers who aren’t intensely competitive will appreciate it, and will be enticed to keep coming back.
3. Get users to boost your business on Facebook and Twitter
Many users already push their Foursquare check-ins to Facebook and Twitter. But some people, afraid of swamping their friends’ feeds with updates, do not do this. This means you are losing out on a free chance for publicity.
Tasti D-Lite has found a way around this. They already have a rewards program, called TastiRewards. If users connect their TastiRewards account with their Twitter and Foursquare accounts, they have the opportunity to earn more rewards per purchase. The cost for the user is that they get an update sent to their Twitter and Foursquare accounts. Since this is an occasional update by a company the user has loyalty towards, this is not much of a hurdle. The benefit for the business is a continuous and cheap form of advertising that almost resembles word of mouth.
4. Use Foursquare’s statistics to better understand your customers
All of the business owners on Foursquare get access to the stats for their location. This includes a breakdown of gender, when people visit your business and how often. Although this may not seem particularly useful, these sorts of stats can be invaluable for owners of a business.
For example, PCC Natural Markets used Foursquare statistics to determine that people were coming into their stores because they were looking for a new organic donut. When you are running a low-margin business such as a restaurant or bar, knowing any information like this can be key to beating your competitors and pleasing your customers.
5. Make personal contact with your loyal customers
Most small-business owners are often meeting their customers face-to-face. But loyal customers who don’t make a fuss may never make an impression. With Foursquare, you can create a connection with these people by contacting them when you notice them repeatedly checking in. Keeping these people happy – the quiet majority who aren’t complaining – is incredibly important. They can also give you invaluable, honest opinions about what is working and what is not working about your business.
For any location-based business foursquare is rapidly becoming an invaluable tool. Getting in now will ensure you remain relevant to your consumers – and ahead of your competition.