What is a check-in and why does it matter to my business?  As millions and millions of people continue to use check-in services like Foursquare and Facebook Places, this is a question we’re hearing more often than ever.

Need a general overview of how services like Foursquare works?  Check out this fantastic video from Howcast.

Here’s how Foursquare defines a check-in:

When you tell foursquare where you are, that’s called “checking in”. You can check in from parks, bars, museums, restaurants, libraries…really anywhere. When you check in, we’ll let your friends know where they can find you and award you points and badges based on your adventurousness. You should only check in once to where you are at the time–no drive by check-ins or couch check-ins, please!

Here’s what a check-in looks like on Foursquare:

And on Facebook:

So why does this matter to businesses?  Let’s take a look at how each element of a check-in impacts a brand.  Here’s what a user sees on their smartphone before they check-in:

Let’s explore each component of a check-in:

Customer Visits

Your business makes more money when customers visit.  A “check-in” means that a customer is visiting your business, and in all likelihood, making a purchase.  Check-ins are unique.  They’re one of the very few “social media” actions that directly impact your bottom line.

You want to encourage repeat customer check-ins. Your business should consider offering specials and loyalty programs that reward guests for visiting and checking-in.

Advertising & Brand Recognition

One of the biggest benefits of a “check-in” is the fact that one of your customers is telling all of their friends about your business when they “check-in.”  Inherently, they’re saying: “I’m checking out this business.  You should too.”  Anyone that is friends with this person on Foursquare (or another check-in service) will see this, instantly bringing you a new audience of potential customers.

Your business can gain even more exposure if your check-ins are shared across Twitter and Facebook.  For instance, Foursquare enables its users to share check-ins with friends on Twitter and Facebook, which exposes even more people to your business and increases the odds of new customers finding you.

Shouts & Comments

Users can leave comments on check-ins.  You want your guests to leave comments about your venue on Foursquare, and you want them to be good comments.  A “Great place for a late-night drink!” comment will attract more customers to your business.

Data & Analysis

One of the missing links in location-based marketing is leveraging the tremendous amount of data that check-ins produce.   Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Which of my customers check-in most often?
  2. Who are my newest visitors?
  3. How often do my guests check-in?
  4. What other venues are my customers interested in visiting?
  5. Do my customers also visit other nearby venues?

If you can learn more about your guests’ check-ins, you gain a better picture of who your customers are and learn how to better serve them.

For example, imagine knowing that Adam is one of your most loyal customers.  He usually visits twice a month for lunch.  He also checks-in at the gym three times a week and eats out for dinner three times a week.

Think that data might be useful? That’s the opportunity that check-ins and location-based marketing truly provide.


Check-Ins are powerful for businesses because:

  1. It means a customer is visiting your store
  2. Hundreds of new people are learning about your store when a guest checks-in
  3. Check-ins can help you understand more about your customers

How else can check-ins help businesses grow?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.