Does your business play Foursquare?

Foursquare.com seems to be this year’s answer to “what will be the next Twitter” and it’s only January.  Foursquare, if you aren’t familiar with it, is a location-based social network where users “check in” wherever they might be.

Whoever has checked into a specific location the most is crowned Mayor and part of the social network’s appeal is this sense of competition for the title of Mayor in key locations.

I can hear you already… “why do I care that you’re at Starbucks or the Mayor of the The Tilted Kilt?” Ahh, no wonder people are comparing Foursquare to Twitter.  It seems to render the same question…why do I care?

I think it’s the wrong question.  I think the question we should be asking ourselves is “if we put our marketing hats on, how might we use Foursquare?”

For those of you don’t know, Foursquare is a location-based social networking website (as well as an app on mobile phones) that allows users to “check-in” at any venue. Users can also acquire “badges” that make the whole Foursquare experience kind of like a game.

A badge is awarded after a user completes certain goals. For example, the Adventurer badge is awarded for checking into 10 different venues; the School Night badge is acquired after checking in after 3 am on a school night. There are tons of badges users can collect.

Another milestone a user can reach is the ego-boosting title of “Mayor.” If a user has checked-in to a venue more than anyone else, on separate days, and he/she has a profile photo, he/she will be crowned “Mayor” of that venue, until someone else earns the title by checking in more times than the previous mayor.  And as a “Mayor” of a few places, let me just say, some are  not shy to tell people that they are the “Mayor” of the place they’re patronizing. It’s no joke that when they become the Mayor of a place, they feel entitled, like a royal customer. And this can work in a business’ favor.

How can businesses use Foursquare?

  • Rewards for check-ins and Mayors: Decide on your offer, promote it via Twitter, Facebook, your Web site, signage, etc., and train your employees to approve eligibility by checking customers’ mobile devices.
  • Make your most loyal customers feel special: Hold an event for the people who frequent your business the most, or offer them a special discount. Let them know they are appreciated.
  • Encourage customers to come back: If someone was Mayor of your business in January, but then had no check-ins in February, send them an offer to come back.
  • Fill your business on a slow night: If Tuesdays are typically a slow time for your business, offer a check-in special, or a discount to the first person to become Mayor.
  • Sponsor the leaderboard: Foursquare’s leaderboard shows the people who have earned the most points in a city that week. Foursquare recently opened it up to sponsorship. Check out what they were able to do withPepsi – how could your brand benefit from sponsoring such an increasingly valuable piece of real estate?

Even if you are not actively promoting foursquare use, chances are that by having a robust and accurate business profile on foursquare, you’ll still capitalize on foursquare use by your customers. More and more people are beginning to use foursquare and I’ll bet some of those folks are your customers. As customers check-in, and leave tips for others, your business will be exposed to many more potential customers. Hopefully, over time, you’ll begin to start actively using foursquare for business, whether that’s through a foursquare Mayor Campaign, a foursquare Loyalty Program, or something totally new that you come up with. When you do, I think you’ll start to see just how powerful it is. Foursquare provided the platform, and now it’s our job to take advantage of it to help grow our businesses.

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