Geo-Social Networks – A Local Business’ Best Friend

With the exponential growth of Foursquare over the past year, there’s a reason why Facebook is rushing to capitalize on the mobile advertising with its own geo-social networking feature, “Places.” The opportunity is great for small businesses if they can harness interested Facebook users utilizing these types of services. They already see it with Foursquare’s user base, as people post to their profiles from the Foursquare smartphone apps.

However, that being said, geo-social networks are still not the mainstream social communities that Twitter and Facebook are. These geo-social networking communities rely heavily on smartphone adoption to allow the community member to get the best value out of the community. Many times I’ve walked into a local store, logged in, became the mayor, and told the owner, and guess what, they had no idea what I was talking about.

These geo-social networks provide a great opportunity for small businesses to find and engage with their most loyal customers and smart small business owners would be wise to adopt some kind of engagement strategy for utilizing these networks and their users. Most likely, these loyal users of applications like Foursquare, Gowalla, or Yelp have some affinity to the place they are logging into and if they are a mayor or they are uploading digital media along with their check-ins, you might even have found an evangelist for your local business.

Keep in mind, smaller, more local businesses have loyal customers because they can generally give more personal attention to their customers, adding in that the geo-social networks can help you connect with them even more. With that in mind, here are some quick tips on how your local, small business can capitalize on utilizing these geo-social networks:

  • Claim your business on the network. Both Foursquare and Yelp allow businesses to claim their profiles on the community and enable them to make sure all the information is correct. By claiming your business, it allows you to make sure that your URL/link back to your own site is working properly, and that your hours of operation and other pertinent information are correct.
  • Upload photos of your business to your claimed profile. People rely on photos in these geo-social networks. They like to see pictures of food, hotel rooms, menus, and people having fun. These digital assets can be very influential in getting new business to walk through the door as well as keeping your existing base engaged.
  • Offer specials to geo-social network users. Post specials for the users of various geo-social networks and vary those specials. For example, on Yelp you can give a 5 percent discount off purchases over $25 if a user of Yelp shows they logged in to your establishment; and then on Foursquare, maybe that user gets a special “add on” gift with their purchases.
  • Reward your most loyal users. Mayors don’t just run the town; on sites like Foursquare, these loyal customers can be very influential with their friends. There’s a reason why they are mayor, or the top user of your location on a particular service; it’s because they like you. Say thank you by giving those users a special “thank you” gift.
  • Monitor the services activity. Not just for who’s using the services regularly, but for what else they are doing such as uploading pictures and adding tips. If something is negative, make sure to address it within your own company and then carefully reply or comment on the matter. Leaving “negative” content sit out on these communities without being addressed can leave a bad impression on the social community user’s mind.
  • Promote your profile on the geo-social networks. Ask your customers who you see using smartphones to add a tip, review, or photo the next time they log in into their account on the network. Make sure to keep an eye on the activity and say thank you when you see your customers who’ve added the content to your geo-social network profile the next time you see them in person.

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