Foursquare is a location-based social networking application that lets users “check in” to local venues and broadcast that information to their friends. You use the application on your smartphone, which relies on GPS to figure out where you are.
The primary purpose of Foursquare is to make it easy for you to find all your friends in a local area – one of the reasons why it was such a big hit at the South by Southwest Interactive conference last March. A secondary purpose – and one that merchants and businesses are increasingly using to their benefit – is to use a system of incentives to encourage people to get out more. If you’re the most frequent visitor of a certain venue, you become the “Mayor,” which may entitle you to coupons or freebies of some sort. So, if you go to the coffee shop around the corner all the time anyway, by using Foursquare and checking into that shop you might qualify for a free coffee. Checking into venues can also qualify you for “badges”.
As a small business owner, you can use Foursquare to encourage more foot traffic. Just like you might announce special deals on Twitter or through your Web page, you might offer a special to Foursquare users.
The benefits of Foursquare are pretty obvious for retail, dining, and entertainment establishments. You can create specials or coupons and track their effectiveness. You can create incentives for new or repeat business. And your results are measurable without having to invest in a fancy CRM application. (For more information on setting up your business with a Foursquare account, go here: http://foursquare.com/businesses/)
Obviously, Foursquare might not be right for your business. If you’re a divorce lawyer, people might not want to broadcast that they’re visiting your office. If you’re a consultant, you probably don’t spend a lot of time in the office anyway – you’re too busy visiting clients. So, as with all Web technologies, your mileage may vary.
Learn more about Foursquare here.