10 ways to get the most out of Foursquare

Focusing all your attention on Twitter or Facebook? Don’t forget about this location-based service.


Foursquare has blasted onto the retail scene representing the growing segment of location-based social and marketing services. The location-based social networking site had 381,576,300 individual user check-ins, 6 million users and a 3,400 percent increase in 2010. It grew even faster in 2011.

I have witnessed Foursquare being used successfully at such diverse venues as restaurants and garden centers. As a consumer, I use Foursquare as a way track where I have been and what I have experienced. This also has involved what I have purchased and what experiences I enjoyed.

Remember that the experience of your business is paramount to any other marketing vehicle. The more tools you have at your disposal to enhance the experience, the better. Follow this 10-step process to solidify your company’s position in the Foursquare environment. This will not necessarily pump your sales full of adrenaline, but it can give you a leg up on the competition.

1. Create your business on the Foursquare platform. Go to Foursquare’s business page to set up your account. You can set up a venue or a brand. Be sure to read the guide supplied by Foursquare to help you create and manage your branded page.

2. Encourage Foursquare users to check in and post reviews about your location.

Foursquare enables a user to view where his friends have been within three hours of an update. This could have huge potential for service-based organizations. Inc. magazine has an excellent article discussing the use of Foursquare for business. I encourage you to go check it out. Go to Google and type, “How to Best Utilize Foursquare for Business.”

Example: Give Foursquare users a discount on a purchase for a favorable tip update. (This could apply to other social networks, too.)

3. Use a rewards points structure to support a local charity. Users will gain points when they accomplish activities such as checking in, making multiple stops in a day, adding a venue, making a repeat visit, or consecutively checking into a certain location. Encourage users to rack up points, and put a value to those points (i.e.: $0.04 per point). At the end of the promotion, donate the money to a charity. This encourages visits to your business and gives back to those who need our help.

4. Use the ‘mayor’ status as a perk. The user who checks in most often at a given location will gain the celebrity of becoming “mayor.” I’ve seen people fight over becoming mayor. If you offer special perks to your mayor (i.e., a gift certificate), it will encourage Foursquare users to visit your location.

Tip: Encourage employees not to become mayor of your location; they have an unfair advantage simply because they’re there all the time. The idea is to attract customers.

5. Use the to-do list. Each business can let Foursquare users create a to-do list with the click of a button. Offer perks for doing so, perhaps through a contest. Use a to-do list to improve service, and let users see the list and become part of the process.

6. Link your profile to Twitter. Foursquare enables you to link your other social networks to your Foursquare account. This gives users the same experience/name over all of your individual accounts, from Facebook to Foursquare.

7. Thank your top customers. Patrons’ earning of badges, becoming mayor, and gaining points help you to see who are most active within your business. The people with the most points receive badges or become mayors of different locations. You may (or may not) give them discounts or specials, but you can definitely say “thank you.” It will help build relationships in the future when you recognize your strong supporters.

8. Listen to the to-do chatter. Along with thanking your loyal Foursquare supporters, listen to them by reading what tips have been written, seeing whether you’re on their “To Do” lists, and monitoring how often people check in. By paying attention to these details, your business can gauge what makes you stand out, as well as how and why. Listening goes a long way in a culture of noise.

9. Use analytics to master the domain. Foursquare has an analytics feature that allows businesses to track trends, use, demographics, total check-ins, and whether information was shared on Facebook and Twitter. When planning campaigns, marketing or just raising awareness this feature can help determine where to start.

10. Partner with others. Restaurants, nonprofits, and businesses have been getting along for years. Now team up in a nontraditional way. For example, when people check in at your location, let them know that 15 percent of the purchase will go to a cause. This is a vague example but you get the idea. Set a goal, and team up with another business to create awareness, increase donations, or interact with supporters. This will provide another opportunity for your business to say, “thank you.” It will also help the community.

Foursquare is an infant compared with the social media sires Facebook and Twitter. However, it is leading the revolution of personalized experiences. Customer-produced information will be key to the success of your business in the coming years. Remember, too, that the site is growing and people are using it.

Will you?

Kyle Lacy is principal of marketing research and development at ExactTarget, a global provider of interactive marketing solutions.

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