How to Start Using Foursquare to Market Your Business

What is Foursquare?

Foursquare Logo

Not everyone is intimately familiar with Foursquare yet, but its popularity is increasing quickly and it’s a great marketing channel for many small businesses. Foursquare is an application made primarily for smartphones that enables its users to “check in” to locations that they visit.  Users check in so that they can earn points and badges as part of a game dynamic, but also because they discover new places to visit and they can get rewards from businesses.

At the end of 2011 Foursquare hit the 15 million user mark and those users have “checked in” to physical locations over 1.5 billion times – you can check out their latest infographic here.

Who Should Think About Using It?

The businesses that should consider using Foursquare are the ones that have a physical location that gets regular foot traffic.  It’s a particularly good way for local businesses to stand out.  There is also a Foursquare brand platform for businesses that do not have a physical location, but we we’ll save that for another article.

How can Foursquare Help Your Small Business?

Foursquare may be a game, but it can drive real results for your business.  Below are 3 ways that Foursquare can help increase sales.

  1. People who didn’t know about your business can discover you. There are two primary mechanisms for discovering new businesses with Foursquare:
    • Foursquare shows users where their friends are checking in.  The primary way that users are notified about their friends’ activity occurs when they log into the application.  In addition to that mechanism for discovery users can post to Twitter or Facebook when they check in, along with a little message or photo.
    • Foursquare users can search for locations that are near them.  If you just landed in a new city and you have a craving for Indian food, Foursquare can tell you where the closest Indian food restaurants are located. There are eight primary categories of searches which are listed below.
      • Specials
      • Food
      • Coffee
      • Nightlife
      • Shops
      • A&E
      • Outdoors
      • Or just a keyword search
  2. You can drive repeat business. Foursquare allows businesses to post rewards that can help drive repeat business (this is covered in a little more detail a little later in this post).  Put a reward out there for multiple check ins (this is called a “special” in Foursquare) and it works just like any other customer loyalty card, but with the added bonus that each check in could be encouraging others to visit.
  3. You can incentivize customers to visit you during off-peak hours using specials. Most businesses have slow times or days that they would love to utilize more effectively.  Using the rewards system in Foursquare, a business can offer customers special incentives to come in during particular hours or on particular days.

What Can You Do to Leverage Foursquare More Effectively?

Below is a 4 step guide that will help you get setup to maximize the value of this free marketing tool.  All it takes is a few minutes to get everything set up and you will be ready to go.

  1. Sign up for Foursquare (you can either use your personal account to claim a business listing or you can create a dedicated business account).  Either download the app on your smartphone or go here: https://foursquare.com/signup/join on your computer.
  2. Create and/or claim your business listing https://foursquare.com/business/merchants/claiming.
    • Search for the listing in Foursquare.
    • Click on the venue if it already exists or add the venue if it doesn’t yet exist.
    • Click on the link in the bottom right of the venue page to “Claim here”.
    • Foursquare will need to verify that you are the manager of the place by phone or mail.  They will attempt to do this by phone by matching the phone number you give them to a national register of businesses; so it will not work with things such as home phones or cell phones (you may need to verify by mail).  If the phone does match then they will give you a call and a machine will give you a four digit code to enter into the Foursquare verification screen.
    • After the verification process you will have access to a dashboard that will give you statistics about your visitors and check ins and you will also be able to create specials.
  3. Leave some tips for your visitors.
    • You can leave tips that will help visitors have a good experience at your venue.  If you have a special off-menu item that people can order, or recommendation for your most popular product or service, feel free to leave a note about it in a tip.  Just be sure that your tips are genuinely helpful and not spammy.
  4. Create a special. Specials are a great way to generate new business or increase repeat business.
    • In order to set up a special, log into Foursquare on your computer and click on the “Manager Tools” in the upper right hand corner of the page.  Next, click on the “Campaigns” tab in the upper left of the page and then click on the “Start a Campaign” button.  The next screen will give you the option to “Add a Special” which will give you 7 different types of specials to select from.Foursquare Specials
    • If this is your first special in Foursquare the “Check-in Special” is probably your best option.  You can simply offer those who check-in to your business a discount off your product or service.  You can even enter fine print such as “only valid on your first check-in” if you want to limit how many discounts you give away.
    • The next special you might want to setup would be for the Mayor of your location or a Loyalty Special.  Rewarding people for coming back to your business regularly can help increase the amount of business you get from the customers you already have.  Just like any other game (i.e. the Monopoly game at McDonalds) it may seem silly, but it works.

That’s it!  You now have all the basics in place to start getting some traction from Foursquare.  Keep an eye on your stats dashboard to see how many people are checking in and spend some time playing with specials.  Over time you will start to get some exposure to a new audience that will hopefully drive new business for you!