In this day and age, it is no longer enough for businesses to simply advertise their services and products in the print or television media. Online marketing is now as important and effective as a viral television commercial.
Around ten years ago, online marketing simply meant setting up an official website and filling it with information about the business. In recent years this practice extended to social media websites like LinkedIn, Tumblr, MySpace, Twitter and Facebook, where the public interact with one another as though in a virtual community composed of incorporeal individuals from all over the globe.
FourSquare takes this concept of social media websites and incorporates it into a more localized setting that is ideal for small business marketing. People can find a lot of uses for it, mainly as a map and a reference guide where they can find recommendations on where to go, what to buy, what to do; including how-tos on a wide range of topics.
How Does It Work?
FourSquare is a location-based, real-time social media application that basically works like a giant bulletin board of sorts. Users download the application into their mobile phones (Internet connection is a requirement). They "check-in" upon arriving at an establishment and are then privy to a lot of firsthand information provided by fellow FourSquare users about the place. These are where the How To, To Do, and Tips lists come in.
Users can earn badges and discounts, depending on the frequency of visits and points earned. Like other social media websites, users can also approve friends and post status messages.
How Do Businesses Benefit From FourSquare?
There are so many ways that businesses can benefit from FourSquare. As a small business marketing strategy, returns come in the form of revenue driven mainly by increasing and frequent customer visits. Users in turn are encouraged to patronize a business because of incentives or "Specials".
Earning points, badges and the celebrated Mayor status increases one's chances of earning freebies and discounts at FourSquare businesses. Anyone familiar with small business marketing will understand how these incentives can later earn back the investment since customers are drawn to the opportunity to pay for something they want for a cheaper price (though it would require the business to dole out money).
Let's look at FourSquare at a business owner's perspective and see how a business can earn from FourSquare users.
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When Earning Points Upon Checking In
FourSquare offers bonus points for people upon checking in a location. Each user's points are posted on a leaderboard. A point system is always an effective motivator that appeals to a man's innate competitiveness. Users will be encouraged to earn more points by frequently visiting FourSquare establishments. This is similar to the interactive games that social media sites use to entertain users.
There's more: cities are ranked according to the accumulated points earned by users living in the area. There are now companies and philanthropies that have partnered with FourSquare and are giving donations based on these figures. Of course, fundraising initiatives are effective online marketing strategies.
When Friends Nearby
FourSquare is the only social media application that promotes social interaction and networking mainly to support small business marketing strategies. When a person checks-in upon entering a restaurant signed up in FourSquare, for example, he will be alerted about how many people are also present or within the area. If he has a friend nearby, he could invite her over for lunch. That is already additional revenue for the restaurant.
A lot of users also post recommendations to buy or try something offered by establishments. It will be advantageous to a business if it earns a lot of recommendations from their FourSquare customers.
When FourSquare Users Give Tips and To-Dos
Each user can create a to-do list, which is actually a "to go to" list. They can recommend places that other people ought to visit. When a person checks-in to a location near your business, FourSquare will send a prompt that another establishment is within the vicinity (yours) and that he ought to drop by for a while.
FourSquare Business Pages
Up until late 2010, only businesses with physical locations and offices benefited from FourSquare. Now, brands and other businesses without offices and stores can also be "visited" by FourSquare users through their own business pages. These work like the traditional online marketing involving websites. These businesses can make the most of their pages by posting tips promoting their brand names. These posts will be visible to everyone in their friends lists, just like in traditional social media sites.
FourSquare is truly one of the coolest and most useful applications today. As an online marketing tool, one can easily see that both customers and business owners actively benefit greatly from it. The perks are instantaneous, updated and truly useful for customers and businesses alike.