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May 2, 2013

Foursquare for Business – How to Engage Your Customers

Foursquare, the location-based app that allows users to check in at different locations to earn badges, the title of mayor, and other awards, has been tweaking its service over the last couple months in an effort to garner more revenue. Last year, Foursquare earned just $2 million. Regardless, they have been implementing new features that should put that number on the rise this year. While the app used to revolve entirely around check-ins, the service is changing, responding to consumer demand which seems to want Foursquare to be more of a rating and social recommendation service like Yelp.

Last summer, Foursquare started offering updates (and shortly after, “promoted updates,” a paid option with a bigger reach), which give shop owners a new way to connect with potential customers. Foursquare also changed its privacy policy slightly to give business owners more information about their best customers, and added a search feature that recommends to Foursquare users “the best places you should go tonight.” And, most recently, Foursquare made a move to connect with businesses in a new way: they released an app specifically for business owners, called Foursquare for Business.

Foursquare for Business is certainly the powerful tool shop owners have needed to promote their business over the network more quickly and easily, and the recent changes are only making it better. In addition to claiming their listing, businesses can now make local updates that work “like a digital chalkboard” to connect with nearby customers, offer specials to reward their Foursquare customers, and learn about their shoppers through free analytics tools, all from the convenience of their Smartphone. In an effort to leave no one out, Foursquare has also bundled similar tools for brands that have no physical location, such as publishers, musicians, or sports teams. That way, your favorite musician has a way to engage and reward you on your favorite check-in app, too.

Obviously, the benefits are already great if you own a brick and mortar location. Now you don’t need to run to the computer in the middle of the day to sit down and add a new update or special – you can do it right on your phone when the time strikes. But here are a few ways to get a little more out of Foursquare:

Remind Your Customers to Check In

You may already have a community of Foursquare users checking in and competing for mayorship — and if so, good job! But if your customers need a little encouragement (or an outright reminder) it doesn’t hurt to announce your presence on the app. Foursquare offers a window cling that you can print out on cling plastic and stick to your storefront, and it doesn’t hurt to mention your specials on Foursquare beside the other specials on your overhead menu or sandwich board.

Follow Up With Your Customers for a Review

Got a check-in? Great! Time to try to get a review out of it. Search Engine Journal has a great post about how to use Foursquare to get online reviews. The post explains how to monitor the check-ins your customers share to Twitter, which you can then reply to and ask for a review while it’s still fresh on their minds. If they had a great experience and have a moment to spare, they’ll probably be happy to recommend you to their friends and the rest of the Web. And, since local results and reviews are becoming increasingly important, it’s great to encourage now.

Give the Mayor Dibs

On Foursquare, the person who checks in at your location the most is the mayor. Well, this person certainly is a fan of your business and giving you income — so reward them. Offer exclusive specials just for the mayor, or give them bonuses in other ways; let them skip to the head of checkout or get a free drink for a friend. If you advertise this special reward, you’re sure to see a flurry of new check-ins from mayor hopefuls.

Check-In for Charity

During SXSW 2010, Microsoft and PayPal put together a great charitable program where every check-in in the town of Austin or every tweet with the hashtag #sxswHaiti generated a 25 cent donation to Save the Children up to $15,000. The program was a hit, and they quickly reached their goal. Other businesses have gotten in on the act too — for Black Friday 2011, JCPenney gave $25 for every check-in to their business up to $100,000 to the Salvation Army, and during the flu season of the same year, Walgreens donated a flu shot voucher for every check-in. Even if your business can’t afford to spend on the same scale as Microsoft, PayPal, JCPenney or Walgreens, you can still get in the giving groove — advertise you’re giving a small donation per check-in to a local charity on a certain day.

Got any other ideas for creative business uses of Foursquare? Leave them in the comments.

Adrienne Erin works with Clarity Way, an alcohol rehab center that treats patients from a variety of backgrounds.