Top 5 Foursquare Mistakes Committed By Small Businesses

In the world of location-based networking, Foursquare rules. Mashable's Lauren Drell lists avoidable blunders you might be making.
Branded Content Editor, Mashable
May 24, 2011

From our coverage on Mashable, you've probably learned a fair share about Foursquare for business. There are more than 9 million people on Foursquare, and there are 250,000 businesses that have claimed venues and use the location-based service as part of their overall marketing program. Foursquare is a free platform for merchants to use to engage and incentivize customers, but only if done right. Here's what not to do as you embark on your Foursquare marketing endeavors.

1. Creating a complicated special

There's no fun in trying to unlock a special that is nearly impossible to unlock. Keep it simple. The purpose of Foursquare's merchant platform is to bridge the gap between customers and merchants, and a high barrier to entry could easily turn users off. There are seven kinds of specials to choose from, depending on whether you're targeting new customers, encouraging people to come back multiple times or wanting to reward the mayor (your most loyal Foursquare customer).

Foursquare enables businesses to activate a special only on certain days or during certain times, or they can reward people for every nth check in, regardless of what time or day it happens. "Receive a free cupcake on your fifth check in" or "10 percent off your bill on Tuesdays" are good examples of simple rewards.

Specials can provide discounts, a few bucks off or a free item. If you're worried about margins, you can offer a special that doesn't affect your bottom line—maybe users will get to shop during special hours at your shop. Alternatively, you can post videos of your most active Foursquare users on your Facebook and Twitter pages. Eric Friedman, Foursquare's director of business development, says the best kind of specials are those that make people feel special and provide them with something they couldn't get as a regular consumer.

Also, remember to set an end-date for your campaign if it's a limited-time offer and use the fine print if there are exclusions to your special.

2. Not training staff

You never want someone to redeem a special and show it to your staff, only to be looked at with googly eyes. Be sure your team is prepared and can recognize a Foursquare special and offer the redemption. Once you create a special, Foursquare provides flyers for you to print off—one for employees, and one for customers—to build awareness for the product and make sure everyone is on the same page.

If you add a new special or change your current one, be sure to alert the team so they can answer any Foursquare-related questions.

3. Not using Foursquare's dashboard

The Foursquare dashboard is chock-full of useful information. Merchants can see what times people are checking in, in addition to details on the gender and age breakdown of those users. Businesses can use this information to craft a special to lure people to their venues during slow periods.

Only about 25 percent of Foursquare users send check ins to Twitter or Facebook, so logging into the dashboard allows you to see who your most frequent and most recent Foursquare check ins are. This is very helpful for businesses and gives them an inside look at their customers, while also providing contact information—such as their Twitter handles—if a user provided it when he signed up. The Twitter handle can be used for one-on-one outreach, which will make your customers feel special and appreciated—and hopefully not creeped out.

4. Giving away too much product via specials

Just like on Groupon, there is a point at which your margins could be affected in such a way that you could be losing money. If you're a cupcake shop, you might not to be able to afford giving away a free cupcake with each check in. That's fine, just get more creative and offer a more exclusive special. Perhaps you can do a loyalty special so that people get a reward—a free cupcake—on every third or fourth visit. That way, they're incentivized to come back.

5. Not advertising that you're a Foursquare merchant

People might not be inclined to check in if they don't know there's a reward, so be sure to put the window clings (which Foursquare sends you when you create a special) on display. Setting up a special also guarantees that your business is shown in the "specials nearby" tab when people open the Foursquare app in the vicinity your business.

The bottom line is that there are nearly 10 million people on Foursquare. Some might be more inclined to try your business—and keep coming back—if they know there's an incentive on Foursquare.