How Can Businesses Better Utilize Foursquare?

How Can Businesses Better Utilize Foursquare?

I’m learning that unless you live in New York, San Francisco or a handful of other tech-minded metro areas, Foursquare is not really at the forefront of people’s minds. For most businesses, it seems to not even be on the radar.

I’ve been doing some research here in Santa Barbara and I wanted to share my findings with you.

Let’s first talk about my favorite sandwich shop, South Coast Deli. Those of you that are connected to me on Twitter or Facebook know how much I love this place. I eat there usually twice a week and have been pretty religious about it for the last couple of years. Anyway, I have been the “Mayor” at South Coast for the last two months. The graphic to the left says I’ve been there 21 times since I started using Foursquare (Note: this screenshot was taken a few weeks ago so that number is even higher now). Every time I go in the same person serves me and he always has to ask my name for the order. Really? I’m in there twice a week and you still don’t know my name? Nevermind the fact that I have been “Mayor” of your establishment for two months.

Now let’s switch gears and look at a Santa Barbara business that is using Foursquare in a much better way. Union Ale is a relatively new discovery for me. They are in a part of Santa Barbara known as the Funk Zone. I don’t venture to that section of town too often, but I had heard great things about Union Ale – especially for watching sports, so I had to check them out.

The first time I checked-in I was greeted with their “Specials.” OK, so let’ see –  if I check in 10 times I get a pint for $1 – not great but it’s something. But then look at this: “The Mayor always gets a free pizza and salad when visiting.” Now that is a great perk.

So let’s compare the two establishments shall we? On one hand I am rabid fan of South Coast Deli. I eat there several times a week, check-in every time and spread the word to my social channels on Facebook and Twitter. Yet, they can’t tell you my name or that I’ve been the Mayor of their establishment on Foursquare for more than two months.

Union Ale on the other hand clearly cares about their tech-minded friends. Not only do they reward people for multiple check-ins, they offer the Mayor a free pizza and salad EVERY time they visit.

This difference in philosophy goes to the value that each establishment places on word of mouth marketing. Someone at Union Ale understands that by engaging with the community on Foursquare, they are building customer loyalty and creating ambassadors for the brand. Apparently, South Coast Deli doesn’t get that.

As of this post I have 13,275 followers on Twitter and 2,515 friends on Facebook. That’s a potential reach of almost 16,000 people every time I check-in to your establishment. Granted most of those people do not live in Santa Barbara. But even still, let’s say 300 of them do – that’s still free word of mouth advertising to hundreds of people. Plus, anytime my friends or family come to visit they usually want to go to South Coast Deli because they’ve seen it pop up on my Twitter and Facebook streams via Foursquare.

Small businesses have to watch every dollar they spend. Many can’t afford print advertising in the Independent or the News Press. Most can’t afford to produce and air a television spot. That means you have to keep your eyes open for the easy opportunities – the low-hanging fruit if you will. South Coast Deli has a Facebook Page so somebody there gets social media on some level. Why not go that extra mile? How hard would it be to login to Foursquare and see who your Mayor is? How hard would it be to create a special like Union Ale did?

It’s easy for me to pontificate about what businesses should be doing. Admittedly, I don’t run a restaurant or a bar. What about you?  Do you have a brick and mortar business? Do you use Foursquare to promote yourself? How has it worked? What have you learned from the process?