4 Practical SMB Uses For FourSquare

Trying to ignore FourSquare in 2010 feels a bit like trying to ignore Twitter in 2009 – it’s impossible. And trying to do so should be considered at your own risk. FourSquare and geolocation marketing is everywhere and it’s all any of the bit tech sites can talk about. The problem is, trying to understand FourSquare as a SMB owner in 2010 is a bit like trying to understand Twitter when it first came out – it’s all a little confusing and overwhelming. As a SMB owner you want to know if this is all just hype or if there are practical ways to leverage this new platform to connect with customers.

The answer it’s NOT just hype. And yes, you can!

Here are some practical, low budget ways to take advantage of the FourSquare action. Because staying with the times shouldn’t mean you have to drop everything you were already doing.

Make Sure You’re Listed

Even if you don’t plan to really use FourSquare, you should take the time to make sure your business is listed correctly. Having a FourSquare business listing today is similar to having one in Google or Yahoo Local. Being there simply allows you to be found. You’ll also get some added search engine visibility as Google Local is now indexing FourSquare business profiles and the pages tend to rank pretty well. We’re also seeing FourSquare shouts count as citations for local businesses. The combination of these will deliver a great SEO boost.

In order to add your business (if it’s not already listed), you’ll need to create a personal account on the site. When you do so, make sure to fill everything out as completely as possible and add a picture (of yourself, not a business logo). Without a picture, FourSquare limits your ability to earn badges or become the Mayor of a location. Once you’ve created a profile you’ll be able to add a venue to the site.

Besides just adding your address information, you’ll also be prompted to include a Twitter handle and relevant tags that will help people to find you. People will often search for these tags in order to find relevant businesses so make sure you’re adding things people would actually search for. Once you’re finished, save your listing and congratulate yourself for getting set up on FourSquare. 🙂

Create a Loyalty Program

The most common way to use FourSquare as a SMB owner is to look at it as a new school loyalty program. By registering offers and specials with the site, you can entice users to keep coming back to your establishment in order to earn new rewards or free items. Whether it’s a free coffee for every 10th visit or a discount on their purchase, customers like being rewarded for their continued patronage. Coupons breed customer loyalty.

To add a FourSquare special to your business, simply click on the link on the right hand side of the FourSquare For Business page. By making it ‘official’ on FourSquare, your offer will appear in the Specials Nearby box that pops up when someone checks into a business near yours. This, obviously, can become very powerful. Someone is far more likely to stop into your store for a free coffee when they’re in the area than when they’re sitting in their office or at home. FourSquare gives you a way to easily target the people who are hanging out in your neighborhood (and perhaps near a competitor!).

Leave Useful Tips For Users

My favorite component of FourSquare is the ability to leave “tips” for people when they come in. My partner Rae Hoffman recently wrote about this on the Outspoken Media blog. She wrote about how in a recent trip to the Orlando airport she became a Foursquare believer simply because she was able to use tips that other visitors had left. These tips helped her to not only get through security faster, but it created a better overall airport experience because she was “in the know” and could feel like a regular.

Business owners can provide the same type of experience for their customers. Leave a tip about the best times to come in for a quick coffee, highlight the groups that gather on certain days, reveal where to find all the best electrical outlets if someone’s coming with a laptop, etc. Anything that betters someone’s experience with your business is good for your business. I recommend that you disclose somewhere that you are leaving the tip as someone associated with the business, as not to come off as deceptive. However, if you make it an Official Tip or a Behind The Scenes Tip, it could become part of the game and increase the fun.

Get Actionable Info About Your Business

Even if you’re not going to use FourSquare to retain and attract customers, you should be monitoring your page to see the activity going on.

  • What are people commenting on?
  • What tips are they leaving for one another?
  • What do they like/dislike?
  • What kind of sentiment are they displaying?

If you’re listening to people complain that folks are hogging the Wifi during lunch, maybe you need to put a coworking policy in place during certain hours of the day. If people are wishing that you offered pizza slices and not just whole pies, maybe you want to consider a special lunch menu to focus on that. Looking at the comments left for others gives you a pretty unfiltered look into what people like/dislike about your business. Use it.

Last month FourSquare added business analytics to help SMB owners gain insight into how customers were interacting with their businesses and to make it easier to engage back. By tying users to specific actions it helps business owners get to know them better and gives them a stronger way to market toward them.

I think the four tips above should give most SMB owners an easy way to interact with and leverage FourSquare in a way that is useful to them. Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it has to be confusing.


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

11 Reactions
  1. What? Foursquare has a purpose? Sorry for the sarcasm, but social media always has great potential. Keeping up with the newest sites may not always yield tons of new customers, but achieving a positive ROI is easy to do (especially with posts like this that make getting on-board so easy).

  2. Lisa,

    You’re right; foursquare is impossible to ignore, if you’re involved in the social media/online space.

    I have no idea how a home-based business owner with a consulting type of business can use it, but I’ll bet that a future post of yours will suggest some ways…

    The Franchise King

  3. Could you find the same services with Gowalla? I haven’t started to use Foursquare yet, but I have played around with Gowalla a bit.

    Joel: You could use geo location services in order to tell your business contacts about your whereabouts, your favorite check-in places, add your Twitter stream and start a new network of users.

  4. Great post, as usual. I love how SBT always has the cream of the crop of blog posts. Foursquare is a great platform for people to connect and add value locally. Equally, it’s a great place for local businesses to raise awareness and visibility in their community.

    I recently wrote about 10 ways small businesses can leverage Foursquare. Anyone who likes this post would love these ideas:

    I would love to see a profile of a business that describes their execution of a Foursquare marketing “strategy” that brought people in their venue, spending more time, increased loyalty and of maybe even a few dollars. 😉


  5. Thanks for the post been wondering same but am passng this on to our restaurant, retail and other related clients to consider. Rural Arkansas is still trying to figure out Facebook…but have some resorts in our Ozarks area that may find this very helpful.

  6. NW @Website Design

    What about monitoring your competitors actions and offers… might find some valuable info.

    Taking it on another level you could form group offers with surrounding local business. Bundle and help promote each other. Cross sell.

  7. Four Square gives small businesses the kind of sophisticated data that has traditionally only been accessible to giant companies with huge marketing budgets – All thanks to cloud computing. Applications and platforms that were once unthinkable for a budget-conscious mom and pop operation are now only a click away with an internet browser. Small can now think Big. There’s also an online CRM application that provides big solutions for small companies. It’s an online CRM application (intelecrm; http://www.intelestream.net/intelecrm) that puts enterprise tools in the hands of small businesses. Delivered on the cloud, costs are significantly lowered and companies no longer need to have inhouse IT professionals to maintain it. Plus, intelecrm has a unique pricing model that allows for unlimited users and only bills subscribers for the amount of records and data accessed.

  8. Foursquare Lover

    Lisa,great job! I think creativity is the 5th practical element and I think that businesses should try to utilize a varitey of platforms, not just Foursquare in isolation. @Mocha_Guru creative ways to use Foursquare: http://bit.ly/a6mhjD