I've been increasingly asked by small business owners, "what is foursquare and why should I care?"
My answer is overly simplified, "it is a game-social network-location based technology-free service that gets you noticed and can encourage repeat customers."
Once their eyebrows restore themselves below the hair line I will usually add in that their business is already on foursquare, I just checked in, their mayor's name is _____, and did they know all that was going on?
In 9.2 cases out of 10, the answer has been "no" to all of the above.
Why should any organization care about foursquare?
For starters you should care because there are already 4 million users and like many social network sites, they're growing rapidly. You should also care because foursquare has some design features with small business in mind - from the beginning - which could empower you to proactively capitalize just by recognizing your most loyal (and new) customers like no other service has.
Foursquare for business offers:
- A self service tool-set which allows you to create customized specials for your business
- Window clings, mailed directly from foursquare
- Real-time stats, which the foursquare teams adds feature-sets too all the time
- And, one of our favorites - a mobile experience which really catapults your custom specials into the hands of your customers
Here are a few other things to consider from a very practical, marketing side:
Depending upon their settings, each visitor's check-in will display on their facebook profile (and subsequently friends' News Feed) as well as their Twitter feed. What gets displayed is a thumbnail map of your location with a link to your organization's profile on foursquare.
But wait, you didn't set up a profile?! Well, someone did and foursquare encourages you, the business owner to go claim your listing.
How are other business owners using foursquare? Check out this very partial list of ideas from a recent Wall Street Journal article on foursquare mayors:
Users of Foursquare—which has signed up 4 million members in its 20 months of existence, including 1 million in the past six weeks—play to earn the title of "mayor" of a particular place by racking up the most "check-ins" during the preceding 60 days. Marketers see a way to encourage visits and reward their best customers. The MarketFair Mall in Princeton, N.J., has designated a prime parking spot as "Foursquare Mayor Parking." On the first Wednesday of the month, the mayor of the W Montreal hotel gets valet parking, a spa treatment or a night's stay at no charge.
Excessive? Maybe, but consider what you're getting:
- The average facebook user has 120 friends who, depending upon time of day, day of week, etc., will see your business listing as a foursquare check-in on their News Feed
- The average twitter user has 126 friends who, again like facebook will see your business name in their twitter feed
- The game-like atmosphere foursquare creates is quite competitive and simply placing a tent by the register, or check in badge on menu's, or throughout your establishment will encourage check-ins, mayor battles and curious on-lookers. This is largely "free" to you
My advice? Go look for your organization on foursquare. If you're there, claim your listing. If you aren't, complete the brief sign-up and make your listing "official." Experiment, test and learn what is the right mix for your location to attract, AND retain loyal customers. And you can always read more on the subject at the links below.