When I wrote, “Local Online Marketing for Small Businesses”, a couple of months ago, I neglected to mention Foursquare, a great tool for local retailers. I have been meaning to get back to it, so I figure now is as good a time as any.
With so many social marketing tools `available, why should you consider learning and using yet another one? Because Foursquare is different from the other tools. It offers some really neat capabilities that the other tools don’t. First and foremost, it gives you, the small business owner, management and promotional abilities the other tools don’t.
As social media and networking have moved from computers to cell phones, new applications are being designed and incorporated into existing marketing tools. One of the latest is called “geo-tagging”. “Geo” is short for geographic. As you probably know, cell phones now have a feature called “location”. You can turn it on or off but all phones now have the feature and software companies are building apps around it. Initially, it was navigational GPS. But now, every day other new apps are popping up. Foursquare is built around this feature and helps drive foot traffic to your location, increase branding and create advocates for your business.
Let’s take a look at Foursquare from the advantages to first the consumer and then the small business owner.
Foursquare for the Consumer
Consumers can launch an app on their smartphone (or via text messaging for non-smartphones), that allows them to “check-in” to a business when they arrive. When they “check-in”, several things take place. They can see if any of their friends are at that location or nearby; they have access to tips and special unpublished “deals” (determined by the small biz owner); and they earn points. Points are automatically tracked and consumers earn badges that determine their status. This creates an active and competitive community around your business. The individual with the most points over a 60 day period (your most loyal customer) becomes the “Mayor” of your community.
Here is a short video for the consumer from Foursquare.
Foursquare Social Media
As you can guess, the goal of most Foursquare users is to become the Mayor of their favorite business – stores, restaurants, theaters, night clubs, museums, or your business. These people then become your brand advocates. How well it works for your business will depend on well you play your side of this game – the business side.
Foursquare for Your Business
We mentioned how the consumer earns points for checking-in when they arrive at your business and if they are the top point earner, they become the Mayor of your business. This is really fun and great for the egos of your customers. But, if you could easily identify who your best customers and brand advocates are, wouldn’t you want to reward them in some way? And if you did, wouldn’t your customers compete more aggressively for points? It is easy for you to do this with Foursquare software that is available for your business.
It starts with you claiming your business or “venue” as Foursquare calls it. Then you can use the simple self-service tools to allow you, the business owner, to create different kinds of foursquare Specials, manage multiple Specials and ultimately track how these Specials perform. These services should empower you to develop more engaging ongoing relationships with you customers. You’ll be surprised how effective a little friendly competition — over the Mayorship, free fries or whatever! — can be in driving customers back to your business.
As a business owner, you can use foursquare to engage your increasingly mobile customers with foursquare “Specials,” which are discounts and prizes you can offer your loyal customers when they check in on foursquare at your business. Don’t forget to show extra love to your business’s Mayor! Additionally, if you offer foursquare Specials to your customers, you will be able to track how your business is performing over time thanks to Foursquare’s robust set of business analytics – for free!
For example, you can use these tools to create a variety of Foursquare Specials, customized just for your business and for your customers:
- Mayor Specials: unlocked only by the Mayor of your business. Who’s the Mayor? It’s your single most loyal customer! (the user who has checked in the most in the last 60 days) For example, “Foursquare has deemed you the Mayor! So go ahead an enjoy a free order of french fries!”
- Check-in Specials: unlocked when a user checks in to your business a certain number of times. For example, “Foursquare says you’ve been here 10 times? That’s a free drink for you!”.
- Frequency-based Specials: are unlocked every X check-ins. For example, “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. For example, “Show us your Foursquare Swarm badge and get a free drink!”.
Once you claim your business on Foursquare, you’ll be able to check real time stats about your business. For example, how would you like the stats for the following?:
- most recent visitors
- most frequent visitors
- the time of day people check in
- total number of unique visitors
- graphical display of check-ins per day
- gender breakdown of customers
- portion of foursquare check-ins broadcast to Twitter and Facebook
And if that is not enough for you, Foursquare has created mobile phone apps (iPhone, Android and Blackberry) for consumers to check-in and has woven the “Specials” platform into these apps. Through this platform, Foursquare actively calls attention to those businesses (it could be your business) that offer specials to Foursquare users. For example, if a Foursquare user is at your bar/restaurant, Foursquare will tell them what they have to do to unlock a free snack or discounted drink. If they happen to be across the street or two blocks away from your business, Foursquare will let them know that your business gives special treatment to Foursquare users and that they should swing by for a visit.
Small businesses often promote their involvement with Foursquare via Twitter, signs at cash registers and sidewalk blackboards. Also, Foursquare can help you market your Specials to your customers by sending you official Foursquare window clings (see first image in this article as an example). Once you claim your business, you’ll be able to add your mailing information to the list, and Foursquare will send some window clings your way.
Before I leave the subject of Foursquare, I just want to add that Twitter recently announced “Twitter Places” – the ability to send tweets that identify your location. Foursquare users can integrate their accounts with Twitter Places. So if you click on a Twitter Place, you will also see nearby Foursquare check-ins.
Foursquare seems to me like a huge opportunity for retail businesses. And I can’t see a down side. It is free (at least for now) and their software makes everything happen automatically for both the business and the consumer. I am interested in the thoughts from our readers.
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Local Online Marketing for Small Businesses
Posted by: Mike Clough
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