3 Industries That Need to Check Into Foursquare

10.11.2010
Foursquare buttons and stickers

By now I’m sure that a good number of you have heard of Foursquare, Gowalla and the growth of location-based social networks. It seems I can't check my email lately without finding at least one blog post or article related to location-based networks in my inbox.

Location-based social networks (LBSNs) are a trend that marketers and business owners should keep an eye on. Thanks to the rapid growth in the use of mobile devices, consumers are now going online whether they’re at the office or at the grocery store. Just the other day I was having dinner with four friends and at one point we realized that every single one of us had updated our Facebook, Foursquare and/or Twitter status during dinner.

Within this post I am focusing on Foursquare because it is growing at a much faster pace than competitor Gowalla, however the information below can certainly apply to Gowalla and possibly future LBSNs. (Twitter has realunched Places and Facebook has location features in the works.)

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Foursquare, it is an LBSN that allows users to “check-in” to venues using a mobile application. As users check in to different venues they are awarded points, invited to leave tips, earn fun badges, and, my personal favorite, become “mayors”. (Mayorships are awarded to the individual that has the most/most recent check-ins to each particular venue.) To find out more about the ins and outs of Foursquare click here.

As of today, Foursquare had over 2.3 million users, 6.1 million venues and according to a recent blog post on Forrester.com, a study shows that LBSN users are 38% more likely than the average US online adult to say that friends and family ask their opinions before making a purchase decision. Recently, Foursquare has announced that they will be offering businesses more extensive analytics that will allow them to see who their mayors are, who has checked into their venue and how often, the time of day most people are checking into their venue, among other information that would be very insightful for business owners.

As of today LBSNs may not be the most popular of social networks, but they are growing quickly and already are a very cool marketing tool for the following industries in particular.

1. Restaurants, Bars and Such:
I couldn’t think of an industry that can take advantage of location-based social networks better than the “food and drink” industry. In my mind it’s a perfect match. Companies such as Chili’s, California Pizza Kitchen and Starbucks have already figured this one out. Earlier this month Chili’s began testing an offer where customers who check in on Foursquare get a complimentary order of chips and salsa. California Pizza Kitchen ran a Foursquare special offer for a free appetizer with the purchase of a certain amount. Last month, when I became the mayor of my favorite Starbucks, I was offered a dollar off of a frappuccino. 

A friend of mine who owns a pizza franchise in Chicago, even went as far as to give his mayors responsibilities, asking them to create a mayor special for an hour. Maybe you offer your mayor a free pitcher of margaritas, or 10% of their bill.

Special offers don’t have to just apply to your mayors. As I mention above, users on Foursquare can leave tips. For instance when I checked-in to a local favorite of ours, I noticed that a previous visitor had left a tip saying that the ribs were amazing. This restaurant could then offer that person a free order next time they visit, as a thank you for leaving that tip. Get creative!

Retail:
As with restaurants, retail businesses can do similar things with Foursquare. Most girls I know tend to have their favorite shops. Whether they are shopping on Melrose or a fan of Sephora, they tend to visit the same shops often. Why not offer them a free lip gloss or 10% off of an accessory to go with their new dress next time they check in?

Entertainment:
Whether you run a movie theater, a salsa club or an arcade, you also have a business that lends itself to leveraging Foursquare.

This is open to offers similar to the ones described above, but you can also get a little more creative. Maybe your mayor gets tickets to a special movie screening or a VIP table for 4 at your nightclub. You could come up with fun badges - similar to Foursquare badges - perhaps a “Goalie” badge to your air hockey champ? The possibilities are endless. As with any other form of marketing, come up with something that relates directly to your customers and makes them appreciate you, remember you and keeps them coming back.

Have any other fun Foursquare ideas? Or did another industry that should be using Foursquare jump to mind? Share below.