Foursquare: Location, Location, Location

If you handle the marketing for a location-based business such as a restaurant, museum or beauty salon, you know that promoting your business to locals is crucial. Social media outlets are quickly becoming an important part of an increasing number of small business' local SEO campaigns by helping them get the word out to those in the area.

To better connect with interested locals, consider joining Foursquare, a social networking website and mobile application that encourages its users to “check in” at the places they visit and awards points to users for both their mobility and loyalty. Users share the places they've been with other users, putting your name out there. Here are a few ways you use this emerging social network to build your business into a hotspot:

• Offer first check-in promotions. Foursquare tracks how many times users check-in at a location and rewards more points for trying out a new place as opposed to frequenting the same few joints. Give first-time users even more incentive to visit your business by providing coupons and other discounts (Free cookie for first check-in, Your first check-in earns you 20 % off beauty products, e.g.)

• Reward customer loyalty. By recording check-ins, Foursquare also knows which users have visited a place more than anyone else on the site. Foursquare honors this user by naming him or her the mayor of this location. Encourage users to vie for and/or defend this noble title by offering mayors incentives for their devotion such as 20 percent off all “mayoral” entrees.

• Capture nearby customers. When users check in to a place, Foursquare knows their location and sends additional notice about what's in the area. Grab the notice of someone who is already out and about in your neighborhood by sending out an automated promotion such as “We see you're at Guestroom Records. Why not stop by Gray Owl Espresso for a latte afterward?”

• Encourage tips and to-dos. In addition to checking in, Foursquare users can also write tips and to-dos that mention specific businesses. For example, a great tip would be “Tulip Exchange has the best selection of vintage dresses in the city.” To-dos are more notes to self that are, nonetheless, posted for other users to see, such as “Adding trying Spoon's red pepper and goat cheese wontons to my bucket list.” These tidbits provide an organic and free way to promote your business to other users. Give users incentive to leave a favorable tip or to-do about your business by offering discounts and coupons. To get the ball rolling, you can even post sponsored tips for a small fee.

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