After a spectacular debut at South by Southwest last March, Foursquare is taking over the world city by city, gobbling up users like Facebook in 2006.
Such viral growth, combined with the GPS app’s focus on brick and mortar shops and venues, has made Foursquare a fertile advertising medium for many businesses.
Here are a few ways businesses are already making use of Foursquare. (It must be noted however that other competitors like Gowalla can and do provide similar potential and functionality, but none have experienced quite as sharp a growth spurt as Foursquare.)
1. Digital Punch Cards
Foursquare tracks your GPS location and allows you to “check in” to nearby venues in order to leave tips for friends, rack up points or win badges, or become the “mayor” or king of the coffee shop (library, nightclub, whatever). Some businesses are giving incentives for people to keep coming back by offering deals like “Check in 10 times and get a free sandwich.”
2. First Check-in Specials
If it’s your first time visiting a certain venue, there may be a treat in store. Some businesses are running specials in order to get Foursquarers to stop by, and they’ll give you anything from a free coffee to 25% off a purchase if you show them your phone. “We offer $2 off any well drink upon your very first check in,” says Elise Oras, social media manager of Del Rey, a tequila bar in Seattle that’s been bent on utilizing the app to its fullest.
3. Secret Coupons
Some businesses are luring Foursquare users to their venues by offering secret coupons that show up when you’re in the area. Foursquare team member Tristan Walker explains, “We’re running a promo now with Fatburger venues in LA. When I’m about to check into a place near one of those venues, I’ll see a drop down that says ‘Special Nearby’ that’ll tell me to head to that Fatburger, check-in and unlock a secret code. When you do check-in, you’ll unlock the code ‘make sure to say burger enlargement please when ordering’ and then you’ll get a free upgrade!” He adds, “It’s stuff like this that gets us excited. The kind of thing that allows brands to engage with customers in interesting ways. It’s been really successful.”
4. To Do Lists
One of the features of the app is that you can write your own list of recommendations for your friends to do around your city.
Some businesses are creating their own to do lists for people that come by their venue. It’s a great way to get people engaged and create a favorable impression on clients.
A hotel in Amsterdam recently announced a raffle for its smartphone-touting clientele, explains Dennis Crowley, one of Foursquare’s co-founders.
Each user who checked into Foursquare was entered into a raffle for a free dinner and a free night’s stay. This creative promotion came as a surprise to Foursquare itself, says Crowley. “We never imagined some of the things people are doing with Foursquare, but it’s pretty cool.”
6. Mayor Specials
The most infamous example of Foursquare marketing involves the competition embodied by the mayor status. Many venues are offering perks to the user with the mayor’s title, which has sparked further frenzy among users keen on claiming their territory.
“We offer our Mayor a free medium coffee based drink or a Texas beer when they check in,” says J.R. Cohen, general manager of The Coffee Groundz in Houston, Texas. “So far it has caused such a stir between many friends of ours that they are fighting over checkins.”
“We offer an all day happy hour for the Mayor & 1 guest,” Oras adds. “We have had a few mayor battles where literally someone came in for a drink just to steal back the title of Mayor.”
There are certainly more than just six ways a small business can leverage Foursquare and its community of hungry socialites to build a business, brand, or clientele. “Any type of in-store promotion you can conceive we want to make it so Foursquare can run it,” Walker says.
Can Twitter say that?