It’s okay if you haven’t heard of Foursquare. I’m not going to pretend it’s easy to keep up on all of the social media platforms going around. However, I will not excuse you any further. There are people out there who already are engaging with your business on Foursquare whether you’re part of the platform or not. So get on there and boost your business!
What is Foursquare?
When I described it recently to someone who hadn’t heard of it, I said, “It’s how you make grocery shopping fun.” Foursquare is a free app that downloads onto any smart phone platform. As the user you set up your profile with your own avatar picture (mine is my cat) and your username. Then this is how the social media game works: Whenever you’re at a location, be it store, doctor’s office, restaurant, your workplace, etc., you click to “check-in.” The GPS in your phone provides you a list of the locations around your precise spot. Say you’re at Bob’s Crab Shack. You look on the list for “Bob’s Crab Shack” and click on it. This is called “checking in.” Now Foursquare has recorded your presence at Bob’s Crab Shack. So when does this get fun?
Points, Badges and it’s Good to be Mayor
The game part of Foursquare is collecting points. Each check-in affords the player a certain number of points. The points vary based on things like your first check-in at a seafood restaurant, the first of your friends to check-in at Bob’s Crab Shack, or maybe you go to Bob’s all the time, so you get extra points for having been there three times this week! Every check-in gets at least one point. And if you earn enough points, Foursquare gives you badges. Oooo! Love the badges. Badges are “unlocked” after you’ve met a certain criteria. They’re like getting a gold star on your homework. Players collect badges for a wide variety of check-in accomplishments. Other players have created the badges, so there are always new, fun and crazy ones to collect. Plus, the players can continue to earn higher levels of the same badge (I’m working on getting level eight of my coffee “Fresh Brew” badge). And finally, there are Mayorships. If you become the person who has checked into Bob’s Crab Shack the most of any others, you earn the title of Mayor of Bob’s Crab Shack. This grants you bonus points at each new Bob’s check-in as well as prestige, because now anyone else checking into Bob’s will see that you are the Mayor. So this is when grocery shopping becomes fun!
Foursquare is a social media platform game. One of the game features allows the players to connect to their Facebook friends who are also on Foursquare. They can monitor each other’s progress. They’ll not only see where their friends are when they check-in, but the game pits friends against each other to see who is the “first” to check-in somewhere, who has more check-in points, more mayorships, more badges, etc. And they can play with friends from anywhere in the world.
Why Your Business Needs Foursquare
Right now, Foursquare just sounds like Big Brother’s ultimate fantasy come true where the masses willingly report where they are and what they are doing at any given moment of the day. Okay, maybe it is. So take advantage of it! First of all, are you at your business right now? Get onto Foursquare and I bet your business is already listed. This is great news! Because in order for an address to be in the game, a player had to put you there. That means you already have Foursquare traffic and you haven’t even done anything yet! Now this is where it gets good.
Although players put your information in, you can tweak it to be more accurate. Or if you aren’t in there yet, add yourself. In doing so, you can add features like links to your website or Facebook page. Consider this the same as with Yelp or other online listings. Put a little bit about yourself, what your company does, etc. The more information you have available, the better for the people you reach. You can categorize yourself for searches and make your company more available for points towards badges. Just have a presence!
Businesses are able to put limited engagement specials onto Foursquare to benefit those who check-in. A little orange bar (which contrasts against Foursquare’s blue and white colors) pops up next to your business name and says, “SPECIAL!” The player checking in can click on the special to see what it is. And this is your free marketing! Here’s some examples of specials I’ve seen:
- 10% discount on your order for checking in.
- Free drink for first time check-ins.
- Become the Mayor and get a free pastry.
- Check-in and get $5 off of your services today
If you’re wondering if this works, let me just say that when my husband and I are shopping and decide to grab something to eat, we pull up Foursquare. The GPS shows us the list of which restaurants are nearby. If there’s one with a special, that’s the one we go to. Period.
The mechanics of how the specials work are like having a coupon. We show the phone screen to the cashier or server, and they (as informed employees of said business) are already prepared to give the promised discount. Be creative with what you do for your special and the Foursquare players will love you for it!
Foursquare also provides a way for players to do searches in their area under a button called “explore.” Much like a Google search, this is another way for you to get your business noticed. A player can type click on “restaurants” and Foursquare will provide a list of all of the known (to the game) restaurants starting with the closest locations. Foursquare gives a rough GPS estimate of close proximity by feet and miles. It’s not always perfect. I’ve been inside of locations and it tells me I’m 513 feet away. But close enough. So, again, players are using this as a resource to locate businesses. You want to be on there!
Social media is about everyone’s opinion being heard, and Foursquare is no exception. Whenever a player checks-in, an option comes up to type in a short “tip” about the location. These are your Foursquare reviews. Just like Yelp or other online listings, players can put anything from “Bob’s has the best crab cakes!” to “the place was dirty and we waited forever for service.” If you are aware of your Foursquare presence, you’ll know what customers are saying about you. And you want to be aware, because the next person who checks-in will see the most recent tip pop up as soon as they check-in. So if the tip was “the place is dirty…” you want to be aware and fix the complaint. Plus, all of the tips posted are saved and available for players to read at any time. Just as I mentioned above about the specials, if I read too many complaints about a location, we figure we should try somewhere else. These tips are like any other place online. The people who tend to take the time to post a tip are ones who are upset or angry. But if you really work hard to support your Foursquare community of customers, you’ll be part of the dialogue and get more positive “Bob’s rocks!” reviews.
Along with tips, players can take and upload pictures to the Foursquare locations. Smart businesses take these pictures and upload them onto their Facebook or Pinterest sites. Make a game out it! Tell players to upload pictures of themselves holding your product or in front of your sign and you’ve got more free advertising! Just be careful, because you can also get players uploading pictures of your overfilled garbage can or the filthy floor.
Who is the Foursquare Community?
The last thing I want to point out is that Foursquare is not just a game for teenagers. Foursquare players run the gambit of ages. Most people with a smart phone are already aware of it. Even those over 30. Heck, over 40! As you should’ve gathered by now, Foursquare is a resource as much as it is a social media game. While some players may be racing to get badges, there are others who use the platform for suggestions from friends, tips, and those special discounts. The platform has such a diverse community, that recently a poll was done to determine which cities in America are the most concerned about beauty. The results were completely tabulated by which cities had the most Foursquare check-ins for beauty related businesses! (A city in Texas won the top honors). So think of it as a resource to boost your business first, a social media game second.
The most important thing to remember is that your business is already part of Foursquare, whether you plan to engage in the platform or not. Why not take control and be part of this community? It can only help support your business. And it may just end up being fun, too.