For most of us involved in Social Media, (a term which this particular author hates), Foursquare has become routine and even a way of life. Checking into a location is almost as much of the common vernacular right now as “Facebook me” was 5 years ago.
Don’t believe me? Try going to a destination where there are a multitude of places to check-in and see if you don’t get told that the app can’t check you in right now, try again later. Last weekend I coerced my best friend to join Foursquare since he was an avid “Facebook Location” follower. He kept watching me checking in and wanted to know what the big deal was.
His first few minutes of Check-Ins he got a multitude of “points” and was hooked like most people are. Soon after he was asking me if I had checked in yet. I had created a monster. In his haste to check in everywhere he was missing the point however. He was getting part of the attraction, the so-called game of points, but Foursquare is a more than just I am here”, check out my point total”. For marketers, it’s also another clever way to get some free press, and more importantly, get a share of promoters (customers) who actually believe in your product. It also allows you to become “mayor” of your favorite places. A lot of places now have signs requesting you to check in.
Many times people, like my friend who was checking-in at great speed, fail to see the “specials here” tab during their check-in and miss the deal. Admittedly, sometimes the deal comes after multiple check-ins, thereby forcing you to come back again and again in order to achieve it. Most of the time, however, the special is a free appetizer at a restaurant (RA Sushi Bar in Las Vegas offers a free edamame appetizer with a check-in. Just show it to your server to get credit.) Or perhaps a percentage off of a comedy act. (The Mirage is currently offering 35% off of Terry Fator’s show if you show your check-in to the box office)
It doesn’t take long to figure out Foursquare, but despite being fun for consumers, it has greater value for marketers. As marketers we have to be more aware of the power of new apps like Foursquare. In a very short time, that application made the act of being there a cool thing and something users are proud to use. It gets the so called “power user” (someone who has many “friends” or “followers” on Twitter or Facebook) to talk about checking-in to your location and broadcasting it on Facebook is the kind of word of mouth press you can’t beat.
Another case in point, here in Miami we had a new bar open up for a few years, an Irish pub on the border of Little Havana and downtown. For those of you who have been there, that is probably NOT going to do well. What did they do? They got to know their customers and started talking with individual clientele. Pretty soon they had discovered a small handful of them like to “tweet” and check-in. They responded by encouraging it and even started incorporating it into their events. They have a Trivia Night every Tuesday and they make sure that they give the topics for the night to anyone who “likes” their Facebook page. Ingenious no? These are the sorts of things restaurant and bars should think about when using Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare rather than just a homepage. Other things to know:
- 1. Know your audience. It doesn’t have to be huge at first, in fact, the best ones are the ones that grow on their own. Make sure you are paying attention to them though and never sacrifice for the sake of getting more people. If you have a good product the people will come.
- 2. Give them an incentive. What is so different about your Foursquare that makes them want to follow you? Give Specials, Deals, or News they can’t find anywhere else. Virgin America has now opened their terminal in San Francisco to a multitude of specials on Foursquare. Badges such as “ground crew” (one to four check-ins) to “captain” (50 check-ins) are now available. All passengers will randomly be awarded prizes (such as like T-shirts and flight vouchers) based on the check-ins.
- 3. Make your Mayor feel special. Give them something that separates them from the crowd. For example, recently Starbucks “Mayors” recently saw this pop up when they checked in - “As mayor of this store, enjoy $1 off a NEW however-you-want-it Frappuccino blended beverage. Any size, any flavor. Offer valid until 6/28.” Some stores offer special bags to their Mayors. More free advertising.
- 4. Keep changing your specials. Giving a special is good but users have to like everything, so keep it fresh. People will not keep coming back for that one great appetizer, no matter how good it is. By changing it up you not only motivate them to want to come back to see what you have changed, but you also expose them to more and more of your business and hopefully they will tell more people. Options you can do are:
- Check-in specials: Users earn these when they check into a venue a certain number of times. Example: Cafe Sambal in The Mandarin Oriental, after the 3rd Check-In, you get a free bottle of wine with your dinner.
- Frequency-based specials: Users earn these when they check-in to a venue every X-number of check-ins. A lot of bars and restaurants will give a complimentary cocktail.
- Mayor specials: The person who checks in the most at a venue during the past 60 days earns these deals. Example: The Double Windsor in Brooklyn, N.Y., lets its Mayor drink at happy-hour prices anytime.
- Wildcard specials: These deals always are available. Example: Free Appetizers.
- 5. Don’t be afraid to try anything. The beauty of things like Facebook and Twitter is that you only really remember the last tweet or status of a person. In the case of Foursquare, it’s the last special. Don’t be afraid to screw up. Everybody does at one point or another but the thing people will actually remember is how you bounced back from it.
- 6: Participate in events like Foursquare day. Tomorrow, places like Miami, Atlanta, New Orleans and NYC have declared 4/16/2011 as Foursquare Day and local businesses are getting in the fun by offering a multitude of specials. St. Patrick’s day was another big event and I am sure all holidays going forward will have the same kind of mad rush of specials.
And last but not least, have fun with it and your clientele will too. If you make it too serious no one will pay attention, but if you make it light and fun, they will tell their friends and those folks will tell their friends and pretty soon who have you a little army of promoters and PR, and the sky is the limit.