Where’s Waldo? Foursquare, Facebook “Places” and Yelp “check-ins” all aim to answer that question. Now that the world can track Waldo’s movement in real time via these location-based social networking sites, the next question is what can we do with that information? Can it be used to drive business? Increase sales? Raise awareness? Is it worth exploring at all?
The first thing to realize is that you have no choice but to be involved in these sites. If you have a physical location, chances are one of your customers has already added your business to the existing network, or will do so shortly. It is a good idea to “claim” your business, even if you are not going to use the system. But once you claim it, why not use it? Foursquare, which awards points to users who check in at various locations using a mobile device or text-messaging, has the most robust platform for businesses at the moment and is explosively growing. For restaurants, it has two strengths: rewarding good customers and attracting new ones.
Foursquare can be an instant and, for the most part, cost-free guest rewards system. Your business can instantly recognize good customers when they are at your business and then reward them for visiting. Instead of punch cards, which guests can forget or lose, your guests can “check-in” using their phone. On the 10th visit, you can instantly offer them a free drink, 10% off the bill, two-for-one entrees – whatever aligns with your concept and that your guests would find valuable. Because the “check-in” is virtual, your business is doubly rewarded: your customer feels like a valued guest and their friends are notified that they are at your business at the same time. This is as good as a recommendation to your establishment.
Location-based Foursquare specials are also growing. These offers should be geared toward potential new customers who are already physically near your business. When someone checks into a nearby business, your offer pops up. This offer should entice the potential guest to check you out and check-in on Foursquare. For instance, you could offer a free appetizer for a first-time check-in. This approach also presents a way to co-market with other business in your neighborhood to keep shoppers in the area.
The bonus for all of us is that these location-based social networks are free, easy to use and give you another outlet for promotions that your business may already be running. If they generate foot traffic and social “buzz”, great. If not, there was no cost in trying.