Foursquare: Check In Here

Foursquare has proven itself to be a major force in social media marketing, especially for brick and mortar businesses. With 20 million members and growing, and over 5 million check-ins per day, the Foursquare community are active trendsetters in a growing market. They are great people to bring into your establishment because they go on to share it with their friends just by checking in to your place. They might even leave tips that will bring others in or comments and reviews on your FS page.

So how do you go about enticing these individuals to check out, or more importantly, check-in to your business? There are many different tools to run your social media marketing strategy on Foursquare, and you may find that a multi-tiered campaign can help bring in brand new customers as well as encourage your most loyal customers to keep coming back. I’ll take a look at some ideas for building your campaign and how to use some of these tools. They’re all free, and most of them are easy to set up, and with a well-run social media campaign you will find that the rewards and additional business are well worth the little time it takes to set them up.

Creating or Claiming your Business on Foursquare

Anyone can create a place on Foursquare. This means that your venue (Foursquare’s definition for any brick and mortar, physical establishment that customers can visit) already exists in the Foursquare Database. Search for your business first on Foursquare, if it does not exist, you can create it easily. If it does, you will need to claim it, in which case Foursquare will need to verify that you are a manager of the venue via phone or email.

Once you have your venue created or claimed, you need to fill out your venues profile. Anyone can discover your business via the Foursquare app, so you want to make sure that your information is correct and that the services you provide are easily understood, and that you have good pictures available for anyone who might be interested in checking you out. Depending on the nature of your business, I would recommend not only pictures of your establishment (especially from the outside, so that it can be spotted from the street), but also a few good shots of what you have to offer, to entice customers to come check it out.

With your Foursquare page all set up, you are ready to start your social media campaign! The goal here is to increase awareness of your venue, and to bring new customers in the door, so we’re going to take a look at many different ways you can accomplish this.

Bringing in the New Crowd

Busy Restaurant (Source: NY Times)Tips are a great way to inform people about your place and your neighborhood. As the venue, you can post tips about your own place or your neighborhood. The Foursquare community does not seem to like feeling overly “advertised” to, but you can get your name out there by leaving tips about interesting tidbits around your neighborhood and other (preferably not competing) nearby business to show that you are a contributing part of the local Foursquare community. If you leave tips at nearby landmarks or hotels, you might be able to lure in out-of-towners who might not know where to explore in your city. A tip could be just an ad telling people about your venue, or you can make them into a fun and engaging experience for the Foursquare user, and that’s much more in the spirit of the site and its community.

First time check-in specials are another great way to get new customers in the door of your establishment. This can also encourage regular patrons who aren’t already checking in on Foursquare to start doing so. You can try offering a discount, or maybe a free item just for checking in. Not only will this get them in the door, but by checking in they’ll be sharing your business with their friends. If they like it enough, they might even leave a tip for other FS users.

You can find some ideas for promotions and easily discover the Foursquare deals near you on this site, which finds all of the best Foursquare promotions in an area.

Rewarding the Old Crowd

You can also use specials as a way to keep people coming back to your business. Some Domino’s Pizza locations have offered a free pizza for “mayors” and repeat check-ins. Now that is a lot of pizza, but if you are working towards your free pie, it just might make you choose more Dominos over another restaurant. It’s the same idea as those old punch cards that everyone would lose well before getting their free sandwich/coffee/slice. It works on building repeat customers, and now Foursquare takes care of the “punching” for you. Starbucks locations have tried similar deals. And hey, if people are checking in to your establishment so often, they’re providing a lot of free advertising, so why not reward them to keep them coming back.

Foursquare awards the title of “mayor” to the most faithful of your FS patrons. This title automatically goes to the person who has checked in to your venue the most in a sixty day period. These are not only your most loyal patrons, but also often some of the loudest members on Foursquare. When you have them on your side, they will be likely to share you with their friends and talk about you on Foursquare, so be sure to reward these people!

Using the New Realtime API

Foursquare recently introduced it’s new Realtime API, which is an apps platform that provides venues with new ways to interact and learn about their customers in real time. The two major components are the User Push API and the Venue Push API. The User Push API will inform clients when a customer has checked in to their establishment. This provides an opportunity to interact with the customer – you can offer them a special or reward for checking in, and you can do this over Foursquare or even in person.

The Venue Push API could prove an even more useful chance to get your name out. Clients who have enabled this feature can receive a notification from your venue whenever they are in the vicinity. This is about as good as it gets with geographically targeted marketing, and you can use this feature to inform them of specials or rewards to try luring them through your doors.

Boosting ‘Check-ins’ and ‘Likes’

You also want to try to boost your Foursquare likes, even with users who aren’t currently checked in. FS provides this page to generate the code for a like button for your FS venue. You can post this code onto your website, Facebook, and other spots around the web. The more “liked” and “happening” your Foursquare page is, the more likely other members of the FS community will be to check it out. Every little bit helps!

Not all of the work you put into your social media campaign needs to be done from behind a computer screen. Make sure to put reminders around your establishment that customers can check in for specials and rewards. Some of your patrons may already be Foursquare users who haven’t bothered to check in, but if they knew there was some incentive, they’d be a lot more likely to do so and share their visit with their friends and the FS community.

Using Foursquare Analytics to Monitor Your Campaign’s Effectiveness

Foursquare Analytics
Foursquare Analytics

In order to keep tabs on how well your social media campaign is doing, you can watch on Foursquare’s analytics page, which is available to managers of an establishment. You can see which users are checking into your place, and find all sorts of statistics and graphs about the number of check-ins, what times people are checking in, and more. This information is useful in all sorts of ways.

It will allow you to see how your FS marketing campaign is affecting your numbers, for one. If there is one particular aspect that proves particularly successful and creates a boost in your check-ins, you can focus your efforts more on that side of the campaign. If you discover that there is time or day when business and check-ins slow down, you can try creating specials around that time to lure more people in the doors. It will also give you a better sense of who your clientele is, and you can look into what other establishments they have liked and checked into. These might be places worth leaving tips and applying other cross-promotional ideas to attract like-minded individuals.

Start Watching Your Numbers Grow!

You now should have plenty of ideas to get your multi-tiered Foursquare social media campaign off the ground, so why not get started? It won’t cost anything other than a little bit of your time, and it can open up your business to lots of new clientele. Be sure to let us know how these ideas work out for you, and check back here for more great marketing ideas and strategies!

Have you had any good experiences with Foursquare or other social media campaigns for your brick and mortar business? What practices worked best for you? As a customer, what Foursquare special and tips have stood out to you?