Foursquare, a blend between a social network and a social game, has huge marketing potential for many types of businesses – not just retail. When used correctly as a part of a larger digital marketing campaign, Foursquare can boost foot-traffic into your business, provide a valid avenue for you to connect with your customers, and encourage positive word-of-mouth.
Before I get into the applications Foursquare can have for small businesses, let me first share the basic premise of what Foursquare is:
People use foursquare to “check-in”, which is a way of telling us your whereabouts. When you check-in someplace, we’ll tell your friends where they can find you and recommend places to go & things to do nearby. People check-in at all kind of places – cafes, bars, restaurants, parks, homes, offices.
You’ll find that as your friends use foursquare to check-in, you’ll start learning more about the places they frequent. Not only is it a great way to meet up with nearby friends, but you’ll also start to learn about their favorite spots and the new places they discover.
While retailers have been the majority of the early adopters to utilize this tool, there are many other businesses that can benefit from leveraging this social tool.
Let’s explore how other types of businesses may use Foursquare:
When it comes to trying out a new restaurant or bar, coupons and incentives help get new customers in the door. Make sure your establishment is listed as a venue on Foursquare. Then claim your listing and offer an incentive for checking in (ex. $10 off your bill of $50 or more) or a special discount (ex. free appetizer) for the mayor. For more ideas read this case-study about how the AJ Bombers restaraunt increased sales by 110% using Foursquare and a boat!
Hosting a large event? Create a Foursquare venue based on your event and reach your attendees who are hip to location-based apps like Foursquare. For example, I recently attended the Woodward Dream Cruise in Detroit (world’s largest car chow). The event organizers could have created a Foursquare venue specifically for the Dream Cruise and they could have created a to-do list that encouraged users to visit various merchants and businesses along the cruise route. Cruise goers could have racked up points and received special discounts and offers for completing items on the to-do list and the merchants and retailers would have experienced increased exposure and sales.
Another great case-study of how Foursquare can be used in event marketing is the way Hubspot utilized a virtual check-in at the SXSW 2010 Conference. They did not have a traditional booth, but were able to generate buzz and word of mouth for their company using a $5.99 box of chalk and Foursquare.
Many universities and sporting venues are using geo-location tools like Foursquare to tap into the competitive nature of students and fans. Schools like the University of Michigan (May the Spartan gods refrain from cursing me for mentioning U of M) are using Foursquare to provide deals and tips for fans who attend games at venues like Michigan Stadium and provide more visibility to the university’s lesser known sports by offering incentives to people who attend competitions.
Harvard is using Foursquare to encourage students to rate campus venues, share tips, and work to earn the Harvard Yard badge by checking in to a certain numbers of locations. They also left tips at locations on and off campus for students and visitors alike to explore.
Libraries and other resources centers can utilize Foursquare’s tips and to-do lists to showcase new books, services, and events to Foursquare users.
In charge of marketing for your local visitors bureau? Create a Foursquare account for yourself (ex. Saugatuck Visitors Bureau) and check in at locations throughout your city or area. Leave to-do lists and tips at the places you check-in to encourage users to explore your city!
The list above is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to businesses using Foursquare to grow. I predict that geo-location tools such as Foursquare, Facebook Places, and Gowalla are going to be the wave of the future when it comes to small business and the web.