Foursquare is a geo-location app that allows a user to “check in” at locations they visit. This can be a grocery store, the local park, or a restaurant. Just about anywhere is fair game! Of course some people use it to check in EVERYWHERE they go, which seems a little silly, and worse yet they updaFoursquare Specialste their Facebook and Twitter pages with their check-ins which can be quite obnoxious. Especially since the platform is well over 1 million users now and growing quickly.

SO, how does Foursquare do anything for marketing a business? I wrote a post on FourSquare for marketing wineries a while back that might be useful from the business side, but in this post I want to get down to just how you use the app effectively as a marketer in the field.

Step 1
Set up an account and download Foursquare onto your smart phone. I find it easier to do the following steps from the Foursquare web site rather than on my iPhone, but it’s up to you. Just click on Settings

Step 2
Upload a profile image

Step 3
Set your privacy settings. You can decide if you want to share your status with your friends and/or your social networks when you “check in” for the first time, so go ahead and turn it on in your settings page. You also decide here whether people who friend you on Foursquare can see your phone and email address and if you’ll see alerts when your friends check in etc.

Start using Foursquare
OK, now it gets more interesting. Let’s say you do marketing for a chain of restaurants. You can go into Foursquare’s web site and leave tips for anyone else visiting the business. “Huge wine list, here’s a review” and add a link to the most recent rave review. You can also create special offers that are displayed when a Foursquare user checks in or browses to see local businesses in the area. Check to be sure the venue’s information is correct and then go there and check in. Add applications like Zagat or Foodspotting and now you can upload pictures and reviews too.

Foursquare Special OffersHere’s a link to Foursquare support for business which should answer most of your questions on how to use it for business. Setting up specials, correcting information about your venue, etc.

Let’s say you’re a wine writer. Use Foursquare to check in at wineries, tasting rooms and celebrity events to build the value of your personal brand. Leave tips and you’ll build a following. Set up a series of tips as a “trip” through some of your favorite wineries.

Realtor? How about offering a gift to people who check in at your open house ?

Privacy and safety issues
Not everybody is your friend. You’ll get a few friend requests from people you don’t know. Like most social networks you need to decide if you want this person to see where you check in or not. Look at their profiles.See where they check in and if you don’t want to connect just click ignore and don’t feel bad about it.
Never ever check in from your home. That’s just smart for any geo-location app, especially if you’re a well known person. The same is true for your office if you have security issues. There are stories of people checking into hotels or bars and telegraphing their location to potential geo-stalkers. If you don’t want people to know where you are, don’t check in and don’t post it to your social profiles.

On the other hand, some people use these apps to let their fans know where they are. Checking in at a bookstore with “Signing books today from 2-4” is good for your following and the bookstore. Win Win. When you leave check in again and say “Left 3 signed copies of my book today”.

Some people use the app to let their friends and family know where they are. You may not care that one of your connections checks in every day at their kid’s school, but it may be a way for them to let their partner know they’re there and their child is being picked up. You don’t have to have alerts turned on if this gets to be too much.

Foursquare to-dosIt’s a good idea to set Foursquare to update your social networks only when it’s something you want to share with the public at large. If you share it on Twitter you share it with Google, not just your followers. Posting your every move to Twitter is annoying and adversely affects your brand.

Always be nice. People associate your comments with your personal brand. As my momma said, “if you can’t say anything nice, be quiet”. It’s OK to leave a negative review,just don’t be a jerk about it.

The mayor thing
In the early days of Foursquare it was a lot of fun to be the mayor of our favorite haunts. Some businesses offer specials to the mayor of the venue and people actually compete for the honor. Being the mayor of your pants is silly. Cute, but silly. You decide if there is a venue that really speaks to you and you’ve just GOT to be mayor. However, being the mayor of your own business may keep other people from trying to oust you. Don’t overdo it. Better for customers to be mayor. Really. Let it go.

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