Foursquare Marketing Guide

by Gareth on August 18, 2010

Foursquare Marketing Guide

Further to my local seo citations post, I wanted to take a look at Foursquare as a geo-marketing tool for local businesses and brands.

Foursquare is a game which “connects local businesses with it’s customers”. The game is based on unlocking badges, but Foursquare is far more than a game.  Users check into local places like bars, restaurants, hotels with their phones and give tips and share their location with friends.  Users with the most checkins to a venue become the “Mayor”, and can receive loyalty rewards from the venue  e.g. Domino’s Pizza offers their Foursquare Mayors free pizzas on Wednesday in all their locations.  Foursquare allows  businesses to carry out geo-marketing campaigns and reach people via mobile phones.

Foursquare was created by Dennis Crowley , recently crowned the new king of social media by Wired Magazine.  They recently raised $20 million and it has already been valued at an incredible $95 million, with nearly 1 million users ‘checking in’ every day.  Though Yelp (and soon probably Facebook) is to allow checkins on its apps, I feel Foursquare’s initial innovation and game context will win users. Foursquare will become a powerful social media marketing channel for businesses in the future.

Foursquares Dennis Crowley

But how can businesses benefit from Foursquare?  For local businesses, it’s a channel to get your customers to share and interact with your business. Foursquare checkins are becoming the new discount ‘coupons’ for local business and everyone loves a discount or freebie. But it’s not only local businesses that are marketing themselves on Foursquare. Content providers like newspapers and websites have found clever ways promote themselves on the Foursquare network.  Mashable for example do not only provide local tips, but ‘insider tips’ for cities all over the US.

Foursquare users love interacting with brands like Mashable, which is why they have over 13,000 followers, showing users are not afraid to add brands as ‘friends’ on this network.

Non-profit and educational institutions are also using Foursquare to their advantage. Harvard University use Foursquare to help orientate their freshers by giving them locations to checkin and rewarding them with prizes. I am not aware of any UK universities using Foursquare for orientation purposes, but it’s a great way of using the Foursquare platform.

Foursquare Marketing Tips

1. Ensure your business is listed.  If not, then fill in the “add this place” form and get listed. Like Google Places, many businesses are not claiming their listings, even when customers are checking in:

Claim your foursquare listing

Somerset House unclaimed listing

Not sure if your business is already listed? Try my customized Google/Foursquare search engine:
enter your “business + city”


By claiming and actively promoting on Foursquare, your business may be  picked up by other sites using the Foursquare API like Misotrends, which shows trending places in cities.

2. Let your customers know you are on Foursquare, add a sticker somewhere on the premises. You want as many customers as possible to “checkin”.   One of the most powerful aspects of Foursquare is users status updates.

Foursquare Checkin Stickers

Each time they check into your venue, all their Foursquare friends are notified (and possibly Twitter and Facebook friends depending on their settings). This can potentially reach thousands of people from one user checking in.

Brand visibility from user checkin = Total sum of Foursquare Friends + Total Twitter followers + Total Facebook friends

3. Announce your Foursquare presence on your other social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. Convert these friends to Foursquare friends/followers.

4. Don’t allow your employees to check in at work.  You want your true loyal customers to be the mayors and compete against each other, continually checking in to oust each other.

5. Make sure you use the ‘Foursquare specials’ feature for your business.  If a customer is at a competing business around the corner, they will be notified of your special offer. This is where the geo-marketing genius of Foursquare lies.

Foursquare Specials

6. Like Twitter, Foursquare can be used as a way to interact with your customers. Listen to what they are saying in the ‘tips’ and ‘shouts’. You will easy find ways to improve your business. This screenshot is from the London cult coffee shop, Bar Italia.

Foursquare Tips

7. Give discounts to your loyal customers.  Even if they are not the ‘mayor’ – high checkin customers should be rewarded. In the future,  if the game element of Foursquare loses appeal, customers will want more than a badge for regular checkins.  This week Gap offered 25% discount to people who checked in on Foursquare for a 1 day promotion, they are not the only retailer using this tactic.

9. Though you want the majority of ‘tips’ to come from users/customers on standard accounts, you can still add a few yourself.  But be creative.

10. Look for 3rd party Foursquare apps that operate in your niche. e.g. Topguest offers travel reward points to customers who checkin to their partners’ hotels and already have Intercontinental, Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza signed up.

11. If you have your own website make sure you have a Foursquare link or logo.  You could also display customer tips onto your webpages like testimonials/reviews through the Foursquare api.

12. Take advantage of the Foursquare analytics. Along with showing the top customers who ‘checkin’, Foursquare’s analytics also give you information on the number of shares to Twitter and Facebook, along with graphical representations of the data.

Foursquare analytics

13. Encourage/reward customers to share their Foursquare interaction with your business:

Foursquare Tweets

14. Experiment and be creative with your Foursquare marketing, like using the Swarm badge (where 50+ users are checked in at the same time). Large Group checkins could be offered further discounts/incentives.  See the AJ Bombers Case study

Foursquare Swarm

Brand Accounts V Standard accounts, what’s the difference?  Brand accounts allow users to ‘follow’ them automatically, where standard accounts use a ‘add as friend’ button and have to be accepted by the other person.  Some brands are using Foursquare from standard accounts, like redbull.  This is great way to let customers get ‘closer’ to your brand.  To obtain a brand account you need to contact Foursquare directly.  I’ve been trying to set up a brand account for a client, but currently you need to set up an official partnership and Foursquare are only interested in the super brands.  Here is Foursquare’s response to my emails:

In regards to the branded page, we are currently working on a self-service solution in response to many similar requests, but we have not yet rolled that out. Stay tuned for more info from the team on the foursquare blog in the near future:

Thanks for your interest in foursquare!

Many of the big brands are now creating Foursquare campaigns, you can see those with the most followers on the Foursquare Leaderboard. Here are a few of the brands and what they are up to…

Louis Vuitton On Foursquare

Louis Vuitton London offer London Tips and have a huge interaction with their followers who tick if they have done the tips.

Louis Vuitton on Foursquare

Starbucks on Foursquare

By checking in regularly to Starbucks, enables you to unlock the ‘Starbucks barista badge” – which will eventually lead to being rewarded.

“Starbucks recently announced a relationship with Foursquare, which enables us to engage with our customers in unique ways by breaking down barriers of digital and physical worlds. Foursquare is another way for Starbucks to take the pulse of the experience in physical stores in real time and hear feedback from our customers”

Domino’s Pizza on Foursquare

Dominos recently announced that Foursquare had a contributing factor to their recent pre-tax profit increases.  Dominos has been giving free pizzas to its local ‘Mayors’, a great incentive to use Foursquare and increases repeat visitors.

Bravo TV On Foursquare

Another example of non-location businesses using Foursquare really well.  Bravo on Foursquare give tips directly from their shows’ stars, like good places to eat etc.  Bravo then give people places to go and checkin, to unlock Bravo badges for prizes.

Bravo Foursquare

With the continual growth of smart phone sales worldwide, Foursquare will continue to expand it’s user base.  Providing next generation coupon marketing combined with geo/mobile targeting, Foursquare offers an opportunity not to missed.

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Related Exteral Foursquare Links

Foursquare 101 –  the lowdown on how foursquare works.

Videos Guides to Foursquare



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