5 Local Deals for Foursquare Gowalla FacebookLocation-based services, such as Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp, and Facebook Places continue to grow in popularity because they increase engagement between local businesses and customers. One of the best ways to initiate that engagement with customers is to offer them great online deals. Here are five ideas you can use to create effective deals on your check-in platform of choice.

1. Offer a Special Deal for Frequent Check-Ins

Offer a Special Deal for Frequent Check Ins

The cost of maintaining an existing customer is typically much lower than the cost of acquiring a new customer, which means that repeat customers also tend to be the most profitable. Review your business profile on a variety of location-based platforms and offer a special deal to the people who check in to your business most often. Reward them for their loyalty and let them know you appreciate their business.

2. Offer a Deal on a Specific Day

Offer a Deal on a Specific Day

Offering a deal that’s linked to a holiday, a special occasion, or even a certain day of the week is an excellent way to generate buzz (and redemption) around your deal. The time-sensitive nature of a deal that’s linked to a specific day or event will give people an incentive to act on the deal right away. McDonald’s ran a very successful “Foursquare Day” campaign, for example. That deal increased foot traffic to stores by 33%.

You could also consider offering something like a “Fan Friday Deal: Each person who checks in to your business on a designated Friday gets 25% off his or her bill. Given the amount of special days in a calendar year, there are ample ways to build a creative and date-sensitive deal.

3. Create an Exclusive Deal

Create an Exclusive Deal

A deal that’s only offered on a specific social media platform can provide your business with a number of useful insights. Try testing the redemption rate of a deal offered on one platform and compare it to the same deal on a competing platform a few weeks later. All else being equal, you’ll get a better idea of what platform your best customers are using and you can concentrate your marketing efforts there.

You can also use exclusive deals to encourage more participation from your customers on a platform of your choosing. If you’d like to tie your location based marketing in with your Facebook Page, for example, you could offer a deal that’s unique to Facebook Places. Incorporate a Facebook “Like” as a prerequisite for unlocking the deal to drive additional traffic to your Facebook Page.

4. Link a Deal to a Donation

Link a Deal to a Donation

A donation to a recognized charity is a universally positive experience and can be beneficial to you, your customer, and the charity. The Hard Rock Cafe recently donated one dollar to WhyHunger.org for every check-in it received on Foursquare. The business received accolades in the press for its altruism, customers who checked in to redeem the deal got a positive association with the brand, and WhyHunger.org received well over $100,000 for its operations.

Small businesses don’t need to break the bank to offer similar deals. There are plenty of local charities that would gladly accept any donations they can get — along with plenty of local customers who would eagerly participate in such a deal.

5. Give the Mob a Deal

Flash Mob Deal

A “flash mob” — a group of people who show up at a location to perform a pre-arranged action — is an exciting location-based opportunity for businesses to capitalize on. For example, Joe Sorge — owner of AJ Bombers a local restaurant in Milwaukee, WI called AJ Bombers — used the incentive of a Foursquare “Swarm Badge” to get over 160 people to check in to his restaurant in one day. Swarm badges are awarded to Foursquare members who check in at the same location at the same time in numbers of 50 or more.

In this case, the bragging rights associated with a coveted Foursquare badge was the basis of a very successful deal. Flash mob deals not only generate a lot of real-time buzz for your business, they bring in a lot of customers at the same time.

If you use a location-based service, what deals have worked best for you? Share your thoughts, below.

[Image Credit: tray, Asha ten Broeke, re-ality, micmol , Hamed Saber, tray ]