Local Search Marketing using Foursquare

I mentioned previously that I was speaking at the Local Search Summit in NYC during Search Engine Strategies. New York was great, met (in person) great people in the industry that I’ve only previously talked to online and more importantly was able to present on something I’m very passionate about – local search. My talk and accompanying slide deck focuses on Foursquare and using Foursquare for local search marketing.

See the follow up post “What Foursquare 3 Means to Small Business

Foursquare is a location-based application that works on the iphone, android and blackberry smart phones.  It brings a game aspect and some competition into the mix and you can use that to your benefit as a small business in regards to how you market yourself locally.  I’ll tell you how you can use it for free marketing and promotion as well. I’ve attached the slide deck at the bottom of the post for review.

First and foremost, Foursquare promotes exploration around town and trying out new venues.  You can open the app, see what is around your current location, if there are any specials nearby and what those are, and you can see if any of your friends are checked-in at any of those locations.  You can see if a place is trending (quite a bit of checkins in a short amount of time) and how many people are there.  Think popularity.  Foursquare has badges that one can “unlock” for certain accomplishments, say if they visit 5 different Starbuck’s they unlock the “Barista badge”.  There is also a “Leaderboard” as you receive points for checking in and for visiting multiple venues in a day.

What do badges and leaderboards mean to you as a business?

Ego.  People have one.  Competition.  People like to win.  This means that people are already playing this game and checking into your business whether you’re currently aware of it or not.  This means that there is a game, external from your knowledge, that is essentially tracking and rewarding your customers for frequenting your venue.

The next magic part is that Foursquare will dub the most frequently visiting player a “Mayor” of that location.  Somebody could quite possibly be the Mayor of your venue right now.

What does Mayorship mean to your business?

Again, think of the game – people like to win. Ergo people start to try and oust the Mayor so they can be in that spot. Being the Mayor is like having bragging rights.  Whoever comes to your business can see who the Mayor is, click on their profile, friend them, etc.  Mayorships and the oustings get posted publicly to twitter (most people have their account hooked to twitter and sometimes to their Facebook wall as well) with your business name and a link to your business’ profile page on foursquare.com. (Example: CK’s Tavern & Grill)

In addition to that, visitors can announce their arrival and/or “shout” that they’re at a location and again your business name and profile link will be posted along with anybody else’s username that has checked in recently (slide 4).  In addition to all of that, people can leave “tips” and “todo’s” for other visitors that will literally ‘pop-up’ when they check in at your location.  “Try the buffalo wings with ranch, best in town” or “Friday fish fry is awesome” or “Best tax prep in town and excellent service”.  Think short reviews.  And why are those good?  Read the SEO Benefits section below to learn why!

Some Stats about Foursquare

At the time of my talk, Foursquare had been around for just about 1-year.  In one year, they’ve obtained about 600,000 users (now they’re getting very close to breaking 1 Million users), have over 16 Million checkins, have over 1.4 Million venues in the database (all created by users mind you).  That’s fairly impressive no?  Out of the over 1.4 Million venues, only about 1200 venues have special offers.  Really?  Can you say “Opportunity“?

People love playing the game, and less than 1% of businesses are seizing the opportunity to entice those users into their place of business.  And you’re spending how much on print ads that hardly convert?

SEO Benefits of Foursquare

Google maps (slide 6) and now Bing maps are showcasing Foursquare venues when people search locally.  Again all without you spending a penny.  Google is starting to use the tips and shouts from Foursquare venues for citations about your business.  If you haven’t heard, citations are used in the rank algorithm.  This is why Yelp and Google Local reviews are so powerful and sought after.

Foursquare venue pages are ranking in search results (slide 7).  It has your business name, address and again links to your Foursquare venue page which also has your phone number.  Need I say more?

How Businesses get Involved with Foursquare

Simply put – goto Foursquare.com, and Search for your business.  If you’re in there make sure your information is correct.  There should be a little pencil icon under the info (once you have an account).  This is like any site, you need to make sure your information is correct and that you’re represented properly.

Not listed on Foursquare.com?  Add your business/venue at Foursquare.com/add_venue

Start a Special Offer for your Business

Like I mentioned above, there is a great opportunity for businesses to get an offer on Foursquare and potentially be one of the only places in town offering a deal.  Foursquare is still new, and people like exploring so if you’re one of the only places that shows you are on Foursquare and recognizing people’s enjoyment of the game and you basically say HI we have a special for you because you play Foursquare…  And even if they’re close to you, a “Special Offer Nearby” tab will show up and upon clicking on that your offer will be visible. Tell me that’s not great!?   Maybe you’re an ice cream shop next to a steak house – make an offer for “Free scoop with your Acme Steak receipt” or “25% off dessert every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night”.  (make up whatever)

How?  Goto Foursquare.com/business/venues and fill out that form – they’ll get back to you shortly. My experiences have proven they act fairly quickly.

Note: In slide 9 I show a dashboard with some nice stats on it.  That currently is in private beta and will be visible to businesses with offers.  Possibly a monetization entry for Foursquare as a “pro” feature or something but currently there are no such talks.  Only that the stats dashboard is in private testing for businesses.

Though you can see some of that on your profile page, such as who’s there, who’s been there, what tips there are, etc.

New School Loyalty Rewards

The new dashboard present some great flexibility for business owners.  Think of Foursquare as the 2010 version of the old school rewards punch card.  You could offer rewards for tweeting 20 times while at the venue or even about the venue, or even a reward for bringing 10 friends in with you.  Foursquare is working hard for local business; expect to see more coming in that regard.

Big Name Companies are already Adopting Foursquare

More and more companies are seeing the benefit in the many options Foursquare can provide and already Pepsi, the New York Times and Bravo network have jumped in and are working with it in different ways.  In fact while in Manhattan I unlocked a Bravo badge for visiting Radio City music hall!  In Las Vegas if you become the Mayor of the Miracle Mile Shops you’ll get your face and name on the 126-foot LED video screen.  I don’t know about you but that would be fricking cool (yes I’m a geek and simple things make me happy – if at least for the photo opp).

So the question is how are YOU going to use Foursquare for local search marketing?

I’m Chuck Reynolds on Foursquare as I am everywhere.  Feel free to friend me on Foursquare and follow me on twitter @chuckreynolds.  I appreciate you reading.  Feel free to ask any questions and/or post concerns on here or twitter.  Cheers!

See the follow up post “What Foursquare 3 Means to Small Business

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  • http://raillife.com/blog Rail Life

    Chuck, this is a GREAT post about foursquare. I love what it can do for business owners and have thought, for a while now, that many businesses are missing the boat on the opportunity this application gives them.
    Thanks for the info… I'm gonna pass it along to some friends.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/chuckreynolds Chuck Reynolds

      nice thanks Nick – I wouldn't say they're all missing the boat but there are definitely opportunities that can be exploited for very low or no cost at all. Every business owner I know says/thinks social media takes "a long time", but only because they have the wrong information. Too many "experts" shouting the wrong information to everybody. Social media needs to be a strategy and approached differently for different businesses and their verticals. But the social media "experts" can't figure that out.

  • http://twitter.com/PhxREguy @PhxREguy

    Next time someone asks me, "What's the point in Foursquare?" I'm sending them here. Great post Chuck.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/chuckreynolds Chuck Reynolds

      Thx man – appreciate it :)

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/aronpo aronpo

    Great post Chuck!
    I use Foursquare daily, and never put any thought in how to monopolize its use. It was just fun to see my friends, compete for mayorship, and essentially play the game.
    I have already come up with several ways to utilize this in a local business I am currently working with here in Ann Arbor, and can't wait to see what else we can implement in the near future.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/chuckreynolds Chuck Reynolds

      Cool, let me know how it goes and what options you went with :)

  • http://tdhurst.com Tyler Hurst

    If more businesses followed your advice, it would completely change my views on location-based apps like this.

    Excellent advice, hopefully people are listening.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/chuckreynolds Chuck Reynolds

      Few are but with anything in tech, small biz is slow to react. Too many people are shy and too afraid to be the one trying new things. The more we all talk about it the more local biz will hear and hopefully engage.

  • http://awatsonbarber.com awatsonbarber

    thanks! I am signing a client (a dayspa) up with all of the local/geo-targeted apps this month…so the advice is timely

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/chuckreynolds Chuck Reynolds

      excellent!
      Good to hear – hope they engage and it works well for them – I know a couple spa's here in Arizona that have used social media fairly well and it has benefitted them a lot.

  • http://www.seonoobie.com Maciej @ SEO Noobie

    I love Foursquare. I think this website is going to change the local game and really bring some new flavor to local search marketing.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/jnferree Neil Ferree

    Ever since Mashable started touting the 4 Square play, I've been keeping a much close eye on its progress. When Peter said on CNN interview the potential market cap for 4S could hit $50-100 million (with only 700k reg users) and that it could rival Twitter, I thought I might try and get a GymRat badge and I don't even like to pump iron anymore.

    We all know that a strong SEO local search marketing strategy is vital to any/all small businesses if they want to be able to compete, hence the formula I chant to the SMBs I work with is; SEO local search + .MOBI + 4S + Twitter + FB = a minimum 4 starters.

    This is a good read on the topic from Mashable too;
    http://mashable.com/2010/04/07/foursquare-cheater

  • http://arizonarealestatehome.com Tempe Real Estate

    Really good point. Any suggestions on how to take advantage of it for a real estate office? I've shared some of these insights to neighboring businesses in our plaza, and all I get is a glazed look….

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/chuckreynolds Chuck Reynolds

      I get a lot of those looks from Real Estate agents :P

      For such an old-world and 'fixed-in-their-way' type of audience you're going to get some of those looks. The thing with Realtors and similar is to show them how they can make money off of it. I'm assuming more people = more money. And this all depends on if they're willing to work for it or just want another magic button to push and get rich quick :)

  • http://www.SmallBusinessOnlineCoach.com/blog Matthew Hunt

    Okay you have convinced me to explore 4squared more.

    I think Google is going to use BUZZ in the similar function as Foursquare. There is some speculation around this that is interesting.

    Do you think foursquared can be used for professional services too…? Like lawyers, accountants, contractors, etc. …?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/chuckreynolds Chuck Reynolds

      I've talked about that before a bit and these specific types of businesses have to think outside of the box a little bit. Just because you can give 20% off on all appetizers with a checkin for a restaurant doesn't mean a lawyer couldn't drop his initial consulting fee or offer the 2nd hour free or something with tweeting a checkin on your first checkin.
      But yes I think they can benefit from it – Just takes some brain power.

  • http://brandxtshirts.com Charles Goffnett

    This is great stuff, chuck. Thanks! P.S. Brand X T-Shirts is active on foursquare!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/chuckreynolds Chuck Reynolds

      That's good to hear Charles – be the spearhead and think of something unique to get ASU students in the shop! Remember to mention it everywhere :)

  • Craig

    Kewl… The Google monster had better catch up… or another .com era big boy will start to fade. Like they don´t need some pressure to return to reality huh?

  • http://www.lorriewalker.com Lorrie

    Hi Chuck, I just found your post while scheming ways to help a client promote themselves in more creative ways via social media. What an awesome post! Thanks for sharing such great information, because it gave me plenty of ideas. On a side note, I'm amazed at all of the badges you've earned on Foursquare. I'm envious. I'd write more, but I'm off to bounce around town and earn more badges. :o)

    • http://chuckreynolds.us Chuck Reynolds

      haha nice – go get em! Glad I could help out. I’ve been on foursquare since the first time they used it at SXSW in Austin, TX a couple years back and I really see this market growing a LOT.
      If I ever get around to it I have some stuff for a nice follow up post. I’m also speaking on this specifically again in another month so I’ll probably have to post something by then :)
      Cheers!

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  • http://autismlisting.com Danon

    Well Said Chuck!. I am currently working with a local radio station broadening their social media presence. They are somewhat resistant in my opinion,. I was not on foursquare before this post, but as I was reading, I remembered one of the radio personalities asking me about 4square. I realized I am missing the boat here, if he is more interested that me. I am now signed up and hopefully will be able to bring some innovative ideas to businesses who are not on 4square yet…

    • http://rynoweb.com Chuck Reynolds

      Right on! That's awesome – Best of luck with that venture and since this post there have been some big changes in the industry and a possible modified direction of Foursquare in the upcoming 2.0 release. They'll focus more heavily on to-dos and tips so watch for that and prepare for it. They're making those part of the game mechanics in 2.0.
      Thanks for reading and commenting!
      http://twitter.com/chuckreynolds

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