Social Media Spotlight: Foursquare

foursquare clingSocial Media Spotlight is designed to introduce you to the benefits of social media for your business, with specific examples tailored to the graphic arts industry. This month we’re exploring Foursquare.

Why join for business?

Foursquare may be one of the lesser-known social media sites for business; however, there are 30 million people worldwide using Foursquare and over one million businesses using it as a promotional tool (as of January 2013). Consumers use Foursquare to find out what others recommend in their vicinity: from restaurants to retail clothing stores to printing companies. Foursquare is a business-to-consumer, location-based social networking platform that helps drive foot traffic to brick-and-mortar outlets. Both small mom ‘n’ pop shops, as well as big brand name companies (and everyone in between!) are using it to encourage customers to visit their stores. Users can either download the app to their smartphone, or search Foursquare on the web to see where their friends have “checked-in” (physically visited a store’s location). They can also rate businesses and leave “tips” (comments) on the service provided. Foursquare acts in the same way that word of mouth does, with increased visibility in a community of socially engaged customers. Ultimately, Foursquare is a promotional platform that helps attract and reward customers, which should be used as part of a larger, cross-promotional campaign.

Is your business already on Foursquare? Maybe! If you are a B2C company, then your business might already be on Foursquare because customers can input or tag your business in the Foursquare database. By “claiming your business” (registering your business with Foursquare), you can ensure your information is up-to-date and you will also gain access to free tools to help your business be discovered by new customers. If you don’t see your business in the Foursquare database, you can easily add your location. The concept of claiming your business is similar to a business listing in a traditional Yellow Pages, however this listing is interactive and provides up-to-date information relevant to your target market.

Individuals can “check-in” at business locations and leave comments about their experience for other Foursquare users to view. Because Foursquare is linked to Facebook and Twitter, it amplifies a business’ reach to users’ networks. If a customer has a good experience at your location and they post their experience on Facebook or tweet about it, their following has the opportunity to see it. Consequently, if a customer has a bad experience at your location, social network amplification can have the opposite effect. In essence, businesses now operate in a world with an underground network of “mystery shoppers” who rate and leave feedback about the businesses they visit as part of today’s social and societal norms. For a company with strong customer service and/or an exemplary product, this is fantastic news. On the other hand, this can be unnerving news for a mismanaged business.

foursquare specialsTips for Engaging Prospects & Customers

Foursquare provides the means for a business to relay information to current and future customers by sharing local updates and offering specials. It is not necessary for customers to subscribe to Foursquare to use it, which makes the barrier to entry for new users very low. Users simply install the Foursquare app or view it in an Internet browser. To start engaging with customers, Foursquare suggests a few best practices for business pages, which includes updating:

  • Your phone number
  • Website address
  • Links to your Facebook and Twitter profiles
  • Hours of operation
  • Other relevant business information

In order to encourage foot traffic to your location, you can take advantage of Foursquare specials. Users can search for specials at businesses near their current location. If your business is offering a special (it’s free to list a special) then your business is highlighted on a map. Customers can redeem a special when they check-in at your location using the Foursquare app. Typically specials are in the form of a discount, small gift, VIP treatment or entry into a contest.

Since “a picture is worth 1000 words,” post timely photos of the people, places and events related to your business activity. Think about what would resonate most with your customers and what would have them coming back to your Foursquare page for more.

Additionally, the customer who checks-in the most at your location becomes (in Foursquare speak) the “mayor” of your business. You can provide special incentives to reward your most frequent customers and encourage loyalty. Also, businesses that “claim” their location can order a free window cling/decal to remind their customers to check-in on Foursquare.

To keep your customers coming back to your business page for more, Foursquare suggests publishing:

  • a new item
  • a seasonal sale
  • an upcoming event
  • your loyalty program
  • new holiday hours
  • a charity drive
  • a current discount
  • special guests
  • a new show or exhibition

How to Measure Your Effectiveness

Because Foursquare is an online platform, there is a record of all activity, which allows for statistical measurement. Foursquare analytics allow businesses to learn about the individuals coming to their locations (based on customers who check-in). This is a great reason to “claim” your business because only once you do this will you have access to these analytics. Key statistics are aggregated by Foursquare (they do all of the heavy lifting!) and an update is emailed to you weekly. In this email there are also tips that individuals have left for your business (think of this as a virtual comments box), as well as any photos that customers have taken at your location. Week-over-week and month-over-month comparisons of how many individuals have checked-in at your location can help you to gauge interest in your promotions. Remember that Foursquare is just one piece of the entire social media puzzle and should not be viewed in isolation. As with every social media platform (paired with insights from other parts of the business) managers know to be mindful of the ‘big picture’ when analyzing their marketing effectiveness.

A Company Who’s Got It Right

Here’s what’s on the Foursquare page of The Piccadilly Printing Company in Winchester, VA:

Print shop’s logo displayed

The listing includes images of their print shop (which have been added over time)

Contact information (including business hours of operation)

Link back to Piccadilly Printing Company’s Facebook page

Check-in Special – “Get a free 2013 Community Events Calendar!!!”

Tips (comments) displayed

Glossary

Check-ins – A user can check-in (notify other Foursquare users) once they have arrived to a business’ location. Foursquare also uses past check-ins to personalize people’s recommendations. Benefit from free viral marketing when people share check-ins on Foursquare, Facebook, and Twitter. To increase check-ins, put up a window cling or set up a check-in special.

Tips – People leave brief tips at places for friends and others to discover, like what dish to order, the best times to visit, or how to find the secret back room. Read tips at your business to see what customers are saying. Tips also help your business appear more popular. Encourage your customers to leave tips.

Specials – Specials are rewards that people can get for checking-in at a business or event – they can be anything from a free cup of coffee to the best seat in the house. Use specials to attract and reward customers or create unique experiences for fans.

(Glossary items from http://business.foursquare.com/basics/glossary/)

Links to Further Resources

If you want to learn more about incorporating Foursquare into your social media marketing strategy, check out their business page: http://business.foursquare.com/. You can also check out this Foursquare small business success story on HubSpot’s blog: http://bit.ly/bpLHVT.

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Diana Varma is an Instructor at the School of Graphic Communications Management at Ryerson University and the Owner of ON-SITE First Aid & CPR Training Group, a health & safety company that provides training to the Graphic Arts Industry.