Foursquare is a wild card among social platforms. Small businesses and brands want to use Foursquare in their marketing efforts, but it’s different from traditional social networks like Facebook and Twitter. However, Foursquare’s ability to connect our virtual and physical worlds is very appealing to businesses and brands.

There are three main ways that your company can leverage Foursquare. You can create a strategy around leaving tips at other venues, you can offer specials for users that check in, or you can partner with Foursquare to create a custom badge.

Businesses can build a loyal base of followers by employing these tactics. And thanks to Foursquare’s robust recommendation engine, these actions can spread the word of your company through Foursquare users’ social graphs. Here’s a look at how three companies — in three different industries — used these specific Foursquare tactics to generate real business results.

The Ritz-Carlton Uses Venue Tips

The Ritz-Carlton is a high-end hotel chain. Its target audience is on the go and expects that brands be there right with them. In order to effectively relate to its audience, Ritz-Carlton created a Foursquare strategy that is an extension of its in-house concierge service. Its concierges are responsible for helping customers with a variety of tasks, including finding the best places to go in the area.

The Ritz-Carlton created Foursquare tips to the best restaurants, local landmarks, and hot spots around each of its 75 locations. The strategy brought real value to its customers and garnered the hotel chain over 1,000 Foursquare connections in its first week — and over 7,000 to date.

Dos Caminos’ Check-In Offer

Dos Caminos is a popular multi-location Mexican restaurant in New York. When its Executive Chef, Ivy Stark, was launching her new book, “Dos Caminos Mexican Street Food,” the restaurant used this to its advantage. Dos Caminos offered a Foursquare special that helped bring awareness to the book as well as bring foot traffic to its restaurants.

Dos Caminos offered a free Hibiscus margarita — one of the featured drinks in Ivy Stark’s book — for each person that checked in to one of its locations. Dos Caminos experienced a 50 percent increase in checks-ins at its flagship SoHo location — with an 83 percent redemption rate. The additional traffic due to the free margarita special also increased sales as patrons bought dinner and more drinks to accompany the free drink.

Fast Company’s Custom Badge

Popular technology and business magazine, Fast Company, wanted to boost its reputation as an expert business innovator. Fast Company launched a Foursquare campaign in conjunction with its popular “Most Creative Companies” issue.

Fast Company and Foursquare created a “Big Idea” badge for users to unlock. In order for users to earn the badge, they had to follow Fast Company on Foursquare and check in to two venues where Fast Company had left tips. These tips were perfectly aligned with the Fast Company brand and the Foursquare campaign.

The magazine tied in its history to local venues, giving users a unique perspective of the company. For example, Fast Company left tips at a Japanese restaurant that was frequented by early Amazon employees, back when it was still an unknown startup. The campaign was a success, as 17,000 badges were earned and Fast Company now sits at 85,000 followers on the platform.

Foursquare is a great app with lots of potential for local businesses and major brands. With Foursquare’s increased efforts in the local recommendations game, it’s a worthwhile component to add to your company’s social media strategy. If you’re in need of some inspiration for your Foursquare strategy, reference how these three companies used Foursquare to their advantage.

[Image credits: Foursquare, Jason Kuffer]