Foursquare is rapidly becoming one of the most talked-about tools on the web. The service, which many are referring to as the heir to Twitter, encourages people to seek out new establishments nearby, and talk about places they love.
The service has potentially huge benefits for café and restaurant owners. So what is Foursquare, and how can it help you?
What is Foursquare?
Foursquare is a location-based social network. In practical terms, it allows users to broadcast their location, and encourages businesses to reward loyalty.
Foursquare operates on a ‘check-in’ system. Users tell Foursquare (and other users that are following them) where they are by ‘checking in’. As a business owner you can choose to offer incentives to certain users. You might reward the customers with the highest number of check-ins, or the customers that check in most frequently.
The system uses GPS, and provides users with recommendations for establishments nearby. In this way, Foursquare is an increasingly important marketing tool for cafes, restaurants and other businesses that rely on passing trade.
1. Make sure you're listed
The first step towards success with Foursquare is making sure that you are listed. You can check to see if your business is in the Foursquare database on their website. From here you can also claim ownership of the business (it will be referred to as a ‘venue’ on Foursquare), and start to build your profile.
2. Offer great incentives
For many users, the big selling point of Foursquare is the incentive scheme. You can use Foursquare as a loyalty scheme for your café or restaurant. You can offer incentives in one of four ways:
- Mayor incentives. You can give an incentive of your choice to the ‘Mayor’ of your establishment – that is, the person who has checked in the highest number of times during the last 60 days. Most businesses on Foursquare save their best incentives for these individuals. Domino’s Pizza, for example, offers Mayors a free pizza on Wednesdays. These are likely to be your best, most loyal customers.
- Check-in incentives. You might choose to offer incentives to customers that check in a certain number of times. If a customer checks in a dozen times, you might offer them a free coffee.
- Frequency incentives. You can also offer incentives every ‘x’ number of times a customer checks in. For example, every tenth check-in the customer might receive a free starter.
- Wildcard incentives. Finally, wildcards allow you to offer incentives at times of your choice, within the Foursquare platform. This is particularly useful if you are partnered with other local businesses; for example, a customer with 10 check-ins at your partner business might be offered 20 per cent off when they visit your café.
3. Build a tip sheet
Foursquare allows business owners to build a list of ‘tips’ to encourage customers to get the most out of their visit.
For example, is there a dish that you are particularly proud of? If so, recommend it on your tip sheet. You can also use this to boost sales of high-profit items.
4. Interact with customers
Foursquare encourages business owners to develop real-life relationships with their customers. You can build a sense of community around your café or restaurant using Foursquare – not least because it allows you to identify your customers more effectively.
Customers will have to show you that they are the Mayor, or that they have checked in a certain number of times, and this offers you the opportunity to strike up a conversation. Make sure that you staff are aware of Foursquare and the incentives you are offering; a blank-faced response will be embarrassing for customers.
5. Use the analytics
You can also access a wealth of information about your business and your customers through Foursquare. You can see useful metrics like check-in frequency, busiest times of day for Foursquare users, gender of Foursquare customers, and so on. This data can help you to understand your business better, and develop new incentives for Foursquare users.
6. Promote Foursquare instore
Remember that Foursquare exists both online and offine. You should make clear that your business is participating in Foursquare, perhaps by putting up posters explaining your incentives or writing them on the blackboard.
This will not only ensure that existing Foursquare users to check in – it will also encourage non-users to investigate Foursquare.
Foursquare is still a fledgling technology, and is continuing to grow at a startling pace. But even at this relatively early stage it provides significant opportunities for businesses that are willing to embrace it.