When I first became aware of Foursquare, a service which allows you to keep track of places you’ve been and give you incentives to visit others, I considered the site to be of little significance, just another indicator of my generation’s unhealthy egotism and voyeuristic tendencies. However, I have since learned that the site is useful for far more than updating friends of your every movement. From the point of view of a typical consumer, Foursquare is useful for a number of reasons. Because the site tracks where you’ve already been it can help you not only find deals to give you reason to return but can help you find new places which meet your interests or needs. However, while using Foursquare to your benefit as a user is largely intuitive, I feel it would be very beneficial indeed to look at the site from the other perspective: that of the supply, not the demand. Indeed, one of the site’s greatest features is its potential as an effective marketing tool. Here are six ways you can use the site to your benefit.

Foursquare app on mobile phone.

#1 Be Explicit in Your Intent


It is, of course important to be straightforward as to the nature and purpose of your business on any social network. After all, why wouldn’t you? On Foursquare however being transparent and presenting a clear-cut message is perhaps even more important. On Twitter or Facebook people will generally like your page if they have interacted with it themselves or they wish to be identified with your message or purpose. On Foursquare things are a bit different. These connections are often made based on personal experience, yes, but just as often bonds are created through the magnetic pull of common interest. The favoring of one location or business may well lead to the discovery of another with a similar intent or content. For this reason, it is of paramount importance to be absolutely clear as to your businesses’ nature.

#2 Give Creatively But Carefully

Foursquare is all about give and take. You expect something from its users: their continued business. It is to be expected that they would want something in return. One could argue that as a business you are already doing this. They give you capital and you perform a service. This is one of the major hallmarks of civilization. However, it might be beneficial for both the business and the consumer for the former to offer something a bit extra. For example, you could offer something low cost for free or at a discounted fee in exchange for a larger purchase or simply a dedication of interest. Those running a restaurant could, perhaps, offer a free drink in trade for the purchase of a meal. Those running a supply company could promise something as simple as a pen to prospective clients in exchange for their visit. Offering something cheap for free can often be enough to lure someone in, which of course means that they will then spend money they might otherwise not have on whatever service your company might provide. You don’t even have to make the trade as explicit as something like a two-for-one deal. On their site, Foursquare includes a testimonial detailing a promotion wherein a Mexican restaurant offered a free sample of a drink (not even a whole one) with no strings attached and no other purchase required. As a result, every one of those customers went on to purchase food even though they were not told explicitly to do so. Requirement or not, a carefully constructed promotion can instill a sense of obligation in the user. In other words, one can offer a coupon which contains the attraction of a totally free item but still imbues the customer with a desire to make a purchase. Regardless of the approach you take, Foursquare can facilitate the specifics of your decision. Just make sure your method is cost effective and feasible in terms of demand not exceeding supply, at least not by an at all excessive margin. Promotions like those described here can be a great way to bring in new customers and keep old ones coming back

#3 Have Something Interesting to Say

One of Foursquare’s most innovative features is the ability to leave “tips.” These are little location specific pieces of information which give the user details about a particular location. Rather than being built into the service they must be added by the business/concern which owns or is affiliated with the place in question. The interactivity of this feature can be very helpful in pulling in a potential consumer and holding their interest. It can also be an annoyance or a waste of time. I would say that you should only use this feature if you have something truly interesting to say, but I feel that such a statement would make it too easy for businesses to ignore this important step, so I’ll say this instead: FIND something interesting to say. Even if compelling information concerning your business or the place in which it is housed is not immediately obvious there must be something you can add, something which would catch the interest of a user. So why exactly does this step deserve so much thought? Pretty much the same reason why you should offer up a free pen or two: it draws customers in. The tips feature allows users to feel connected and involved with their location and that can be enough to merit a visit. It would be a shame to ignore this feature, as near-insignificant as it might seem at first.

#4 Build Strong Local Connections

In my post about using Twitter to build your business I spoke of the importance of networking with other users whom you respect, admire or wish to collaborate/be associated with. This is even more important when using Foursquare, as the connection between one business and another could be enough to attract the primary interest of a passing user. Location is what the site is all about, and as a result Foursquare allows you to target clients based not only on their interests, but on their proximity as well. For this reason, partnering with other local businesses can do much to convince users that your concern might be with supporting. Also, say you’re a manufacturer. Partnering with a retailer might not only give you an additional place to peddle your wares but could allow for some beneficial cross promotion. In short, keeping track of the other users within your general area can be extremely important in furthering the reach of your businesses.

#5 Promote Exclusivity

Many people join Foursquare not only to find new businesses but to gain access to special offers not found outside its walls. Often, these offers are simply coupons or promotions, features which I detailed above. However, it is my advice to go beyond these simply extras and get a bit more involved. Emphasize your business’ relationship to Foursquare by offering promotions which directly involve not only your products but the nature of the site itself. One could, for example, offer rewards based on the number of check-ins received in a certain day (say 100 check-ins offers a redeemable reward or a promotion on a later date). You could offer promotions which are only available if a user checks in at a certain time or on a certain date. You could even create a program which rewards frequent check ins, a system which praises repeat customers by giving them exclusive offers. There are indeed many ways to utilize this system to your advantage.

#6 Use Your Dashboard

One of the things which make Foursquare such an effective tool is its dashboard, a feature which it offers to businesses which subscribe to their service. The page can be used to track a great number of things: how many people have checked in on a given day (and who), which users have frequented your business most often and what times are the busiest. Also, if you have more than one location, the site will offer statistics both combining the numbers from all the sites and listing them separately. This can help you design promotions and find areas which might need a bit of work, as well as those which should be maintained. This is an incredibly valuable resource for any business and only serves to make Foursquare that much more appealing as a powerful aide in the growth and maturation of your business.

For all of these reasons and more Foursquare is a great site, something any business could and should consider. It can help bring in customers and once they’re in it can help keep them coming back. Through promotions, deals, tips and the connections you make you can build a strong support system which will all but guarantee the steady flow of capital. In short, I recommend Foursquare highly not only for what it offers immediately but for the potential it holds, all of which is just waiting to be unlocked by a little creativity and marketing savvy.