With so much recent buzz swirling around about the benefits of using foursquare, here’s the simple low-down on exactly what foursquare is and how you can list your business on it.

What is Foursquare?

Foursquare is a popular social media application that invites users to “check in” to businesses and other venues using their mobile phones. These check-ins are optionally broadcast to all that user’s friends on Facebook and Twitter — a statement of identity for the user, and free exposure for the business.

The approach is especially effective thanks to techniques pioneered by video game designers to engage its users. They compete for the title of “Mayor” at each venue, which is given to the user who checks in most frequently. As they check-in at certain places, they can accumulate “Badges” that they can show off to friends.

For example, a user gets a badge called “Bender” for checking in four nights in a row, the “Jetsetter” badge for checking in to several airports, and so on.

Users get caught up in the game for more check ins, mayorships, and badges, which encourages them to go out to venues and be social about it.

How to Get Listed on Foursquare

Just search Foursquare for your venue by typing in the name and location at Foursquare’s website. If it already exists, you’ll see a button that says, “Do you manage this venue? Claim Here.” Click it, and you’ll be taken through some steps to take control of the tools Foursquare offers business owners.

Among those steps: verifying the address, stating that you’re authorized to claim the venue, choosing an e-mail address, and specifying whether the venue is part of a chain.

Finally, Foursquare will make an automated phone call to confirm that you’re a real person who’s authorized to claim the venue. Alternatively, Foursquare can do this by postal mail to the venue’s address as it appears on the listing.

You must use the postal mail option if your number is not already listed in certain national business registries. Foursquare verifies this to make sure that no one claims the venue with a false number.

If your venue doesn’t already exist, you can create a new one, then claim it as described. Foursquare has a page for that.

Setting Up Additional Features on Foursquare

Specials

Specials reward Foursquare users for checking in to your venue, and encourage them to share info about your business with their friends.

Exactly what you’re offering to customers in your Specials is up to you, but in most cases you’ll offer them to customers who check in. You can award a special to a customer who does one of these three things:

  • Checks in to your venue for the first time
  • Checks in to your venue a certain number of times
  • Becomes the Mayor of your venue by checking in more than anyone

In the second circumstance, you might announce that a customer receives a free item on every 7th check in. In the 3rd, you could offer a customer a 10% discount on some products as long as he or she is mayor. It’s really up to you.

You can also offer what Foursquare calls “Wildcard Specials.” These are basically freeform alternatives; you can dictate the terms yourself, and make them clear on your Foursquare page. Foursquare won’t verify these Specials for you; you’ll have to do it yourself, which is one reason why tracking Foursquare customers with online tools is a good idea.

Creating Specials

 

 

 

Once you’ve claimed your venue, you’ll have access to a password-protected business management site. Just go to the “Manage Specials” page to get started with your Specials.

Initially, you can only host one special at a time. You also need to have each special approved by Foursquare reps; they’ll take care of that via e-mail once you’ve filed a request at the website.

You’ll have to click a link in the e-mail to publish the Special after it’s been approved.

The Extra Mile: Encourage Customers to Share Tips

If you really want to be a Foursquare guru, you can encourage or incentivize your customers to share tips and photos of your venue with their friends. Tips are sent to users who are close to your venue, and they lend some legitimacy and exposure to your business on the web.

You can ask them to this with a sign, a personal plea, or cards handed out when they make a purchase. Or you can use a Wildcard Special; offer a discount or other boon to every customer who shares a tip or photo of the business.

The more exposure you get, the better.

Is Foursquare Worth the Effort?

In a word: YES.

Foursquare’s a niche product, sure, but its users are great people to have for customers. They’re socially connected, so they’ll provide your business with some exposure, and the social network gives you a way to incentivize their loyalty.

What do you say?

Does your business have a listing on Foursquare? Do you encourage users to ‘check in’ at your business? Let us know by leaving a link or a comment below and you could be featured on Fan Friday!