If you’ve been following our Foursquare blog series, you may have read “What is Foursquare?” and “3 Big Brand Campaigns To Learn From On Foursquare”. This article will build on those and focus on how the local, non-chain or smaller chain businesses can utilize Foursquare effectively.

Types of Foursquare Specials
As of March 2011, there are now 7 types of specials a business can offer on Foursquare. Once a business claimed their venue, they would be able to find the window shown in the screenshot below where a business would choose which specials they would want to run.

The Strategy Behind Each Type of Foursquare Special

Swarm Special: A large group checking-into a venue together can take advantage of this deal. It works similarly to Groupon in that a critical mass must be reached before anyone gets the deal. This would be perfect for a local restaurant that would give $0.25 wings if a group of 30 showed up. This can draw more people and lots of business from things like office happy hours and sports related fan clubs looking for a place to all watch the game together.

Friends Special: A business can use this deal to get customers to bring their friends on their next visit. It gives a deal when checking-in with a certain number of friends and that number is determined by the business itself. This can be very useful for businesses where customers go to together naturally like a bar or restaurant as opposed to something like a hair salon which is typically an individual activity. This special helps attract new business and trials when those current customers who are familiar with the business bring their friends who don’t know about it yet.

Flash Special: The Flash Special is a deal for the first determined number of people who check-in; again, this number is determined by the business making the offer. This is really effective for getting customers to show up early. This is often used during happy hour periods which often get busier as the night goes on. It is also effective to start a line outside of a business. For example, a nightclub could give the first 25 people to check-in after 9pm a free drink to get customers to line up outside making the club appear more popular.

Newbie Special: Want to attract new customers? This deal is only unlocked when someone checks-in for the first time. This is great to attract new business and to boost the trials of a product or service. This can serve really well as an entrance into a long term customer funnel strategy.

A restaurant called Bice in downtown San Diego adjusted the deal to only be good on certain days and time periods. This feature can help drive foot traffic during slow periods much like a happy hour would.

Check-in Special: This deal is unlocked every time someone checks-in. For example, an Irish Pub called The Field in downtown San Diego gives 15% off the entire bill every time someone checks-in.

Loyalty Special: Rewarding your most loyal customers is often rewarding to the bottom line. This deal is unlocked after a determined number of check-ins from the same person. As the name suggests, this effectively boosts repeat visits and capitalizes on the 80/20 rule which states that 80 percent of business comes from 20 percent of the customers. Examples of restaurants using the Loyalty Special that are current as of this post’s publication include Currant, The Corner Restaurant & Bar and the Palm Restaurant which all give a free or big discount on a drink or appetizer after the third check-in.

Mayor Special: The Mayor special is probably the most well known and widely used deal. It is unlocked for the person who has checked-in to a specific location more times than anyone else. If the deal is good enough, customers will go out of their way to visit that store and the competition can be fierce. Starbucks’ Foursquare mayor offer did a great job with this and dramatically boosted visits to their coffee shops by 50%.

Overall Tips and Advice

  • Develop a strategy funnel that will both attract new customers and retain current ones.
  • Run multiple specials simultaneously to build a complete conversion tunnel.
  • Don’t expect this to double your profits over night; it will take time.
  • Be creative with how you use these offers. One small business gave a discount to customers who wore a certain Football jersey to their sports bar. Customers flocked there to watch all of the games not just because of the discount, but because it was advertising that it was a place where all of those fans would be watching the game together.