Digital MarketingEmail MarketingKeys to Success With Social Media Marketing: Foursquare

Keys to Success With Social Media Marketing: Foursquare

How four different neighborhood food establishments are successfully (and unsuccessfully) using Foursquare to drive business.

We interrupt this email marketing column to bring you a special bulletin…

There are emerging avenues you should be leveraging in addition to email, especially if you are a brick-and-mortar business.

OK, so it’s not really breaking news, but as an avid consumer of all types of marketing, it surprises me when it’s not done as well as it could be. I’m not talking about creative execution here; I’m talking about basic strategy and tactics.

foursquare-logoFoursquare is one of these emerging avenues. Here are some of my thoughts on how brick-and-mortar businesses are currently using Foursquare – and how they could do it more effectively to improve their bottom-line revenue.


Are you on Foursquare yet? It’s something I’ve been toying with for a few months now as a consumer. The basic idea is that you “check in” at places (businesses, office buildings, parks…it could be anything) and your friends can see where you are. In addition to friends on your Foursquare network, you can dual-post your location to Facebook.

I’m a city dweller, so the perceived value of Foursquare is influenced by that. I’ve found it useful for connecting with friends when I’m out and about. If I’m within a block of the waterfront and I see that my friend Kim is down there having dinner, I’ll stop by. But I digress, that’s not marketing.

Foursquare gives local businesses the opportunity to market to people who are in their vicinity. The key to success is having a clear goal and matching both the value of the offer and the check-ins required to it. Let’s talk about a couple different deals which are on Foursquare in my neighborhood now.

Häagen-Dazs: Buy One Dazzler, Get One Free on Your First Check-In

This is a smart promotion on Häagen-Dazs’ part. There are a number of ice cream places in my neighborhood (Ben and Jerry’s is just across the street) and Häagen-Dazs is the only one marketing on Foursquare. The next time I need a cool treat, will this tempt me to head to Häagen-Dazs instead of a competitor? Yes.

The goal here is clearly to get people in the door. The first check-in reward matches that. The value is clear – it’s buy one, get one free. Will this keep people coming back? Maybe, if they enjoy their experience (and the ice cream!). But it’s clearly not intended for that – it’s strictly an acquisition offer.

One thing I had to investigate – what is a dazzler? Turns out it’s an ice cream sundae in a cup. Small point, but providing some more detail on what’s free would have made this more appealing.

Mr. Smith’s: Half-Price Entrée Every Third Check-In

Mr. Smith’s is a classic bar/restaurant in my neighborhood. I’ve actually used this offer many times. When I’m out and about and the hunger pangs start, I’ll often head to Mr. Smith’s, check in, and, if I qualify, enjoy lunch or dinner – at half off.

Mr. Smith’s has burgers starting at $8 and entrees up to $22; it offers both non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks. Assuming you’re a cheap date, a typical tab (burger and a Diet Coke) is $13 with tax and tip, so your third-visit reward will be a $4 value, which is 15 percent of what you’ve invested.

The goal here is to drive ongoing traffic to Mr. Smith’s. The choice of every third check-in is a good match for this. And the offer is of a high enough value that it supports the goal.

Would I eat at Mr. Smith’s anyway? Yes. But this increases my frequency. It’s a good way to keep people coming back.

Bangkok Joe’s: One Complimentary Order of Signature Dumplings Every 10th Check-In

How many times a week do you visit the same restaurant? How long would it take you to get to 10 visits? Five weeks? Longer? This is why this offer stumps me.

If you’re a real regular, this offer will benefit you – eventually. But if not, it doesn’t really incent you to give the place a try. The restaurant isn’t leveraging Foursquare for new customer acquisition, which is a key way to use it.

Dumplings here are appetizers; they average $7 per plate; non-alcoholic drinks start at $2.50, so a non-dinner visit will cost you at least $12, probably more. After 10 visits and an investment of $120 or more, you’ll get a reward valued at about 5 percent of what you’ve spent. It’s a small windfall if you’re a regular, but otherwise?

So what is Bangkok Joe’s goal? It seems like it’s just to reward die-hard regulars, not to drive new visitors to its restaurant or to create new regulars. The check-in requirement is too steep and the reward too small for acquisition of new customers or building loyalty. So is this worth it? I’m not sure – regulars are going to head to Bangkok Joe’s anyway; Foursquare doesn’t seem like the best channel for this offer.

Moby Dick House of Kabob: Standing Mayor on July 31st Wins a Vacation Package for Five

If you aren’t familiar, Foursquare designates frequent visitors as “mayors” of certain locations. There can only be one mayor per place at any given time. This is a grand offer – a free vacation for you and your family or friends. But only one person will win it.

I’m on the fence about this marketing offer on Foursquare. On the one hand, I eat at Moby Dick at least once a week – great kabobs. But I have no thoughts of ever being mayor or getting this reward. Maybe it’s that I’m in a college town, so there are lots of students that frequent Moby Dick a lot more than I do (I believe it does a very healthy “late night” business on weekends).

As with the Bangkok Joe’s offer, the goal here is clearly to create die-hard regular customers. The potential reward is great – but only for one lucky mayor. So the check-ins required are an unknown. Unless you’re really driven to win this vacation, the Foursquare offer isn’t going to impact how much you frequent the establishment. So is this the best use of Foursquare for Moby Dick? I’d like to see the restaurant focus on getting more people in the door or getting people to come more frequently. In the long run, there’s probably more revenue for them in that.

Until next time,


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