Why do our customers use foursquare? What is their motivation? See how foursquare fits “The 7 F’s of Check-ins” framework, and understand some best practices of foursquare for marketing professionals.

How foursquare fits in the “7 F’s of Check-ins” framework

The Basics

foursquare leaderboardFoursquare is a location-based social network that allows registered users to share their current location (checking in) with their friends. Users will receive points for checking in at different places (venues), according to different parameters. The cumulative numbers of points each user earns is published in a leaderboard that resets once a week. Members compete to be at the top of the leaderboard among friends.(FAME, FUN)

The user who checks in the most times at a specific place during a 60-day period becomes the “mayor” of the venue. Being the mayor of a venue is an honorary title, but some places offer certain perks for the mayor like free coffee, 50% off your first drink, etc. (FUN, FAME, FREEBIES)

The users can select to receive a notification when certain friends “check-in” nearby. A user can select to -check-in privately, without pushing a notification to friends. Foursquare notes that off-the-grid check-ins will not unlock a “mayorship,” but they will count toward the tally to earn the title. (FRIENDS, FLIRT, FOLLOWING)

While browsing places near the user’s location, they will see venues offering specials. When the user clicks on the venue listing, the special will show on the top right of the screen. The special will be unlocked once the user checks in into that venue. (FREEBIES)

foursquare specials

Additionally, users can create a to-do list for their private use and add tips to venues that other users can read, which serve as suggestions for great things to do, see or eat at that location. (FANCYING, FOLLOWING)

Users earn badges by checking in at locations with certain tags, for check-in frequency or for other patterns such as time of check-in. There are badges related to specific cities, brands and places. (FUN, FAME)

foursquare badges

Different badges require different types of check-in patterns, and the fun of the game is in discovering new badges as you go. (FUN)

Foursquare keeps a log of all check-ins, therefore a user can go back to her own profile and see where she was in the past, what sites she frequented the most and other statistics. (FOLLOWING)

What are the basic options you have as a marketer?

Foursquare offers different services for places and brands. For venues (brick and mortar merchants), they offer a set of free tools that will fit most businesses. Those reward tools are divided into two main categories — attract new customers and reward existing ones.

Foursquare has many combinations to determine how and when a customer can unlock a special. You as a marketer decide the content of the offer. The number (value) of the X bellow is a variable parameter you define, too.

  1. Swarm Special: Unlocked when X number of people check-in at once in your place. (i.e. “It’s a party, get 50% off any drink when 25 people check-in at once. Maximum 35”)
  2. Friends Special: Unlocked when X number of friends check-in together. Note that the emphasis here is on people who have a relationship (are friends on foursquare). (i.e. “Check-in with 3 friends and the appetizer is on us when ordering drinks or dinner”)
  3. Flash Special: Unlocked when a customer is one of the first X number of people to check-in after a certain hour. (i.e. “Happy Hour, the first 10 customers to arrive after 6 p.m. get a free glass of wine”)
  4. Newbie Special: Unlocked the first time a customer checks in. (i.e. “Welcome! Buy anything in our store and receive the same amount back in a gift card”)
  5. Check-in Special: Unlocked every time the customer checks in. (i.e. “Get 25% off every time you check-in”)
  6. Loyalty Special: Unlocked every X number of consecutive visits. Here, you can give your reward every X number of times (repetition), at exactly X number of times (only once) or the customer checks in X number of times in a predefined period of time. (i.e. “Check-in 3 times in 2 weeks and the soda is on us”)
  7. Mayor Special: There is only one mayor per venue, and you can offer whatever you want to that person. (i.e. “Everybody gets a 25% discount when they check-in, but the mayor gets 40%!”)

Foursquare best practices – A starter list (Part 1)

These are some of the best practices we’ve developed and consider while implementing a check-in strategy.

  • Every single business/venue should be analyzed on its own. Start by analyzing the target market, the type of products sold, and other promotional efforts. Bottom line, the following best practices are just ingredients for success, not a recipe.
  • Target several check-in drivers. Note that most of the possible combinations mentioned above point to one main driver – freebies. While you can’t control other aspects of the applications, you should try to include other F-drivers in your campaign, such as FUN, FRIENDS, and FANCYING.
  • Too complex foursquare check-in offerKeep it simple. If you try to create FUN in your text, don’t make it too complicated. Check the figure below. Last time I checked this venue, they had many check-ins but almost no tweets following their directions. (Some details were blurred on purpose)
  • Create a conversation. Leave tips for your customers and acknowledge theirs.
  • Create deals that have value for your customers but also make sense for your business. It’s very easy to give free stuff; the challenge is to transform that giveaway into value for your business. Sometimes value doesn’t translate in an immediate dollar reward. Think of the swarm deal. If they are already at your business, why offer a freebee? Because it provides a better customer experience. Will the crowd buy enough to cover what you give up in the special? Maybe yes, maybe no. But the experience of receiving something as part of a group will remain with them longer than most of your other advertising spending.
  • Train your employees. Training is key — not only on the details of your deals, but also on how the apps work. Make clear rules for employees’ check-ins.
  • Encourage your employees to check-in before the launch of your campaign as training. But make clear rules on check-ins after the launch. There is nothing more annoying to never be able to be the mayor of a place because the employees check-in every day.good check in foursquare
  • Integrate with other social media efforts. Encourage your customers to tweet and share on Facebook about their check-in and acknowledge their check-in with a thank you note. See a good example from Sugarcanerawbar.
  • Plan for the long term. Different from couponing or a newspaper ad, check-in apps effectively build a following with time. The number of check-ins and the buzz created will be noticed after a few months.

Before we continue

As you may understand, these best practices have little to do with the technology or the app. They are directly related to marketing strategy, tactics, and procedures. That is why I emphasize to my customers that, in order to implement a location-based marketing campaign, you need a marketing professional.

There will be more tips to come in Part 2. Until then, I’d like to hear about your ideas and personal experiences.

Thank you!