Most location-based social networking sites allow users to see where people in their network frequently visit. This has value, in and of itself, because it shows users places that they might want to explore in the future.
However, in most cases, that’s only the beginning.
As a marketer, I see the tremendous opportunities that are available to businesses of all sizes, from the “mom and pop” store on the corner to major retail stores that are found in malls all over the world. Even brands that make the products and services sold at these stores can utilize location-based social networks in their marketing efforts.
To illustrate this, let’s focus on some of the basic features of the most used** location-based social networking site: Foursquare.
Recent Major Milestones
In June of 2011, Foursquare became the first location-based social networking site** to pass the 10 million user mark. That means that over 10 million people, worldwide, are using Foursquare to share where they are with the people in their network.
It’s not surprising then, that a few weeks later they announced that there are over 500,000 merchants on Foursquare.
Venues are the foundation of Foursquare.
The basic idea behind Foursquare is that when users visit their favorite places in the terrestrial world, they can check in to the venue on Foursquare and let the people in their network know about it. (Note: Foursquare also allows users to share their check-ins with people who they are connected to on Facebook and Twitter. And, Foursquare can also be linked to some other mobile apps. This adds even more value to the Foursquare check-in.)
The current version of the Foursquare app also has a feature that lists the nearby venues that are the most popular on Foursquare. This can help people plan their day, by recommending businesses that they might want to check out. (Hint: This might be a reason to encourage people to check in to your venue.)
As users check in, they earn points and badges from Foursquare. Users can also become the mayor of a venue if they have the most check-ins in the last 60 days. (Hint: This could be one way to identify some of your most loyal customers.)
Furthermore, users can also take advantage of the Foursquare Specials that the venue is offering, if there are any.
What are Foursquare Specials?
Foursquare Specials are mobile coupons, prizes or discounts that owners of a venue can set up, in an effort to get customers to visit their physical locations more often. A post, titled “Over 500,000 businesses are on foursquare! That’s a lot of Specials!” on Foursquare’s blog, gives examples of some of the Foursquare Specials that were being offered at the time the post was written.
If you do offer Foursquare Specials, be sure to let your employees know about them. It’s also important to train the appropriate staff on how to process these transactions.
Foursquare Pages and Partner Badges
Businesses that don’t have a physical location can still use Foursquare in their marketing efforts by taking advantage of Foursquare Pages and Partner Badges.
A business can set up a page on Foursquare with information about the business, links to other locations where they can be found on the Web, and a banner with the business’s logos and other graphics.
With Foursquare, a business can also create Partner Badges that users can earn for doing things that help the business achieve its goals. For example, Lucky Magazine awarded badges to users who checked in to recommended fashion boutiques.
Businesses also have the ability to check in to venues on Foursquare.
If your business is built around delivering products or services to customers at events, this could be a very useful feature. For example, event decorators, caterers and entertainers could use this feature to check in to the venue at each event that they are hired for, and include a message about the event and a photo of their contribution to the event.
Don’t Forget to Tip
Tips are suggestions that you can give to followers who check in at a given venue. This can be a great way to keep your business in the minds of your customers and potential customers.
The Foursquare website gives the following suggestions for leaving tips:
“Tips should be interesting, clever, and worthwhile nuggets of information (like a tweet) tied to a specific location.”
“Tips can be actionable: Go here. Order this. Ask for extra of that.”
“Good tips share insider info, like specific dishes, drinks, or secret details. Bad tips are just descriptions of what a user can see themselves.”
As an added bonus, tips that your users are interested in taking advantage of can be saved in their to-do list on Foursquare. This feature will remind users to do what you suggested the next time they visit the venue.
There are many opportunities for businesses to take advantage of Foursquare in their marketing efforts.
Keep in mind, I haven’t covered everything. For example, Foursquare announced that it will be incorporating daily deals from its partners (e.g., Groupon, LivingSocial, etc.) into its app. However, I haven’t seen this feature in action, so I will have to leave that for another post.
What I can say, though, is that businesses should at least consider using Foursquare to market their products and services. With over 10 million users worldwide, it could definitely be worth their time and effort.
If you are looking for additional information on using Foursquare in your marketing efforts, you might want to check out this Mashable article and the articles that they have listed at the end of it.
Finally, if your business is already using Foursquare for marketing purposes, I’d like to hear about your results. I might even be able to use your business as a case study in a future post.
Photo credit: Sham Hardy on Flickr.
** Note: This is limited to location-based social networking sites where location-based check-ins are the primary purpose. (Therefore, it excludes Facebook Places, Twitter, Groupon, LivingSocial, and Yelp.) See the Mashable article, titled “Foursquare Surpasses 10 Million Users [INFOGRAPHIC].” For additional information, check out the post on bynd.com, titled “The Reality Behind the “Check-In” Hype.”