Everything You Need to Know About Foursquare's New Merchant Tools

The location-sharing app is connecting merchants with loyal customers in entirely new ways.
July 23, 2012

On Wednesday, Foursquare announced a slew of new merchant tools that give business owners more power than ever before to communicate with their customers through the location-based platform. Before, business owners could claim their venues, set up a special and let the platform take it from there—it was more of a passive marketing tool. The new additions make Foursquare's local updates far more dynamic, and they leverage location-based marketing in a more targeted way than Facebook and Twitter. The revamp has several parts:

  • Updates: Share photos, specials and news to nearby customers, via tweets or Facebook status updates
  • Specials: Create and manage Foursquare specials (no change here, aside from a sleeker interface)
  • Dashboard: See stats about who checked in, and how your venue traffic changes from month to month
  • Tools: Manage your business' presence on Foursquare, including adding new managers and editing your venues

Below, we give you skinny on what you need to know and how to take advantage of the platform.

Creating an Update

Local updates let business owners who've claimed their venues send updates about their business to their "best customers" when they’re nearby. Your "best customers" are determined by how often they check in, how recently they've checked in and whether they've liked your venue on Foursquare. Whether someone is nearby is determined via GPS. Note that these updates target people who've already interacted with your brand on Foursquare, so it's more of a tool to build loyalty with existing customers than a way to acquire new ones. Think about the kind of things your frequent customers would want to know about, and use updates (new menu items, sales, fresh inventory) to lure them to your storefront.

Here's how you send an update.

Log in to Foursquare; you'll be logged in as an individual, but you need to use Foursquare as the business to have admin access. In the upper right hand corner, click your name, then in the dropdown menu, click "Use Foursquare as [business]." Then click "Updates" in the blue navigation bar.

First, in the dropdown menu, decide which venues you'd like the update to target. You can do one venue or all venues.

After you select your venue, type the update, select a photo and, if it makes sense, add a special. A few specs to keep in mind:

  • Text can be up to 160 characters, including a clickable URL

  • Photos can be JPG, GIF or PNG and should be 720x540 pixels and less than 2 MB. Any narrower than 720 pixels, and the image will be grainy; pulling Instagrams, which are 612px, won't work here.

  • Landscape-oriented images work best

If your loyalty special grants customers a free cupcake on every fifth check-in, a great update would have text along the lines of, "Loyalty is sweet! Every fifth check-in nabs you a free cupcake!" paired with a photo of cupcakes and the special, which will pop up when you click "Attach special."

Updates don't come through as push notifications. They will show when people view your location, in your loyal customers’ "friends" feed (alongside tips, check-ins and likes) and after people check in. Any photos that are part of a check-in will populate in your business' Foursquare page.

Location Page

Foursquare is paving the way for profile pages. The new feature, which can be seen at foursquare.com/businessname, has all the trappings of profile pages, hinting at future paid features. Each page has a bio, banner image, a collage of likers, photos, tips, recent updates and lists.

To optimize Foursquare, support local businesses by leaving tips around town—these tips comprise much of the content users see, with hyperlinks to the tipster's page, so you could actually drive traffic to your own page by being supportive of other businesses. It's a win-win, and the same goes for lists.

Your banner image should be 860x130 pixels, less than 250KB and in GIF, JPG or PNG format. In your profile, you can also add up to three links, in addition to your Twitter handle.

Stats Dashboard

The dashboard lets you view check-in statistics on a venue-by-venue basis, or as a company. Spotting trends and lulls can help you optimize your updates and specials to drive foot traffic to your business. Business owners can see total check-ins, unique customers, people who like your venue and people who like your updates. Clicking "View Report" pulls up day-by-day stats for a deeper dive into the Foursquare —and by proxy, buying habits—of your customers. You can see how many check-ins get pushed to Twitter and Facebook, as well as the number of first-time customers. CSV exports of this data will be available soon, for the number crunchers out there. Foursquare also plans to roll out news feeds of a business' top visitors and demographics, helping business owners establish richer relationships with their patrons.

Lauren Drell is the Campaigns Editor at Mashable, where she manages, writes and edits client-supported campaigns. Lauren worked as a multimedia reporter at AOL Small Business, where she focused on entrepreneurs and startups and launched several video series.

Photo credit: Courtesy Foursquare