5 tips for small businesses using foursquare

As a small business owner, attracting a steady stream of customers is always a high priority. While referrals and direct marketing methods can help you build up that client base, don't overlook the value of location-based social networking sites like foursquare to boost business. foursquare allows your customers to "check in" to your establishment upon each visit and this information is shared on their profile, Twitter, and even on Facebook. Your customers are essentially alerting their friends, fans, and followers of their whereabouts - and indirectly marketing your business. You can take advantage of this online activity by enhancing your foursquare presence and encouraging all of your customers to join you there.

Here are five tips for small businesses who want to jump onto foursquare:

#1: Identify your check-in spot. If you decide to promote foursquare freebies and special offers, you need to identify where your check-in spot actually is. If you're the owner of a small online boutique, customers won't be able to check in to your location. In this case, it's is not the best platform for your marketing plan. If you own a small bakery or are a salon owner, check-ins could help to generate more business and help you build a steady clientele of people who check-in frequently to earn rewards and take advantage of special deals.

#2: Be creative with foursquare deals. While offering a percent off discount on a bill or giving away a freebie for "x" amount of check-ins is now standard, you can make your business stand apart with a more creative Foursquare deal. A fitness center in my area recently ran a foursquare promotion that allowed each person who checked-in to bring a friend for a free class or get a day pass. This was a great way to introduce new clients to the club. They promoted the offer on Facebook and this prompted a flood of check-ins with a new member.

#3: Encourage people to leave foursquare tips. A small sign at the register or on the door to request a foursquare Tip can be a very positive addition to your foursquare presence. Ask satisfied customers to leave a tip or comment as they leave so that new customers can learn about you when browsing foursquare profiles.

#4: Highlight specials and promotions in the tips section. The foursquare tips section is also open to business owners so you are free to share information about upcoming promotions, special offers, or other news - just don't overdo it. Make brief announcements that pique a potential visitor's attention and be consistent with your marketing messages.

#5: Set up a reward for every check in. Some local bars and restaurants in my area offer free appetizers or a free beverage just for checking in. This can be a great incentive for many people to visit your establishment and will also help to market your business to everyone in that person's social networks. Think of a cost-effective reward you can offer your customers just for the act of checking in.

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