Foursquare: More Than a School Yard Ball Game

In an age where smart phones are marketed as necessities and social networking comes as second nature to most, it is no wonder that more and more companies are turning to location-sharing sites like Foursquare to promote their businesses. But what is this new technology and how can it help your coffee shop keep up with the ever-evolving digital marketplace?

Coffee shop owners can advertise their Foursquare participation in storefront windows to attract potential new customers and raise their “check in” count.

Since its official launch in 2009 the location sharing (geo-tagging) site Foursquare has steadily built a membership base which now boasts more than three million users worldwide. Taking advantage of the smart phone craze, Foursquare designed their program to allow users to “check in” at various locations, often businesses, using their iPhones, Blackberries, or Android phones. The beauty of this arrangement? Business owners get valuable insights into their customer bases as well as free publicity. Once a Foursquare user checks in at his or her current location, notifications are sent not only to the business owner, but to everyone in that user’s circle of “Foursquare Friends.” Foursquare check ins are also visible in Facebook and Twitter feeds, making the geo-tagging site a valuable tool for any business looking to gain free exposure.

Now, the question is how can you turn this “game” into a viable marketing strategy for your small coffee shop? Foursquare is, when all is said and done, a game. As such, there needs to be some kind of incentive for its players or else interest would quickly fade. Clearly, the growth to 3 million users in less than 2 years means something has got people coming back to play. Foursquare awards badges and highly coveted “mayorships” to people who check in to certain businesses multiple times. These locations, in return for repeat business, offer discounts to those who earn certain badges or win the title of mayor. Think of it as the loyalty card for the digital age. Plus, there’s the competitive drive to earn more badges than all your friends. Just flash the cashier your Mayor badge on your blackberry and claim a reward.

Already this strategy has been successfully implemented by Starbucks as a way of enticing and rewarding regular customers. An article on the Foursquare blog describes how after implementing their “$1 off any size Frappuccino” promotion, Starbucks enjoyed a 50% increase in check-ins at its many locations across the nation. But how can you make this idea work for your small business? Well, it’s simple. Once you establish a loyal “swarm” (Foursquare lingo for a large group of check-ins), positive buzz for your business will pop up in the Foursquare, Facebook, and Twitter feeds of all your customers’ friends and your visibility will increase exponentially. The best thing about it is that Foursquare focuses on specific locations and franchises rather than companies as a whole, therefore it is an equal opportunity marketplace for individually owned shops looking to promote themselves.

Admittedly, geo-tagging and location-based applications are still a touchy subject with many a consumer, but getting in on the ground floor of what’s already promising to revolutionize digital self-promotion is something worth looking into. Have you already started using Foursquare as a marketing strategy for your coffee shop? Let us know how it’s worked out for you!

It’s getting hard to ignore the growing need for social media advertising in this increasingly digitized world. Do you want to learn more about how you can use social networking and media to promote your business? Then be sure not to miss the social media talk at this year’s SCAA Expo.

To learn more about how you can use Foursquare to promote your business, visit: http://foursquare.com/businesses/

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