Thursday, October 14, 2010

Why every retail and hospitality business needs to get on to Foursquare

By Tracy Jones

There’s a revolution going on in the social media world that will change the way retail and hospitality businesses interact with the public – Foursquare.

And anyone who thinks they can ignore this platform like all other social media networks should think again – your business is probably already on it.

Foursquare is essentially a tool that allows people to mark places on an electronic map and post comments about them. Using mobile phones, users can “check in” to these places and share their views with the world.

The places people tend to mark are shops, restaurants, cafes, hotels and entertainment and tourist venues.

What makes Foursquare different from other social networks is its ability to locate nearby places and tell you in full detail what other people think of them – good and bad.

Here’s how it works. If you stand in the middle of Smith Street Mall and log into Foursquare using your mobile phone, the application brings up a list of places nearby including cafes, apartments, hotels and bars.

Now click on the “Tips” and you’ll get a list of what people think about these places. Here are a couple of real examples (without the names of the venues):

• “The banana spring rolls are tremendous.”
• “Not a fan of the prices here.”
• “One of the best restaurants in Darwin.”
• “Try the rice noodle soup with crispy chicken … delish.”
• “Girl at the front desk is rude.”
• “Avoid this place like it’s on fire.”

My bet is that 90 per cent of the Darwin businesses listed on Foursquare now have no idea they are there, let alone what people are saying about them.

If you’re not convinced about the value of being on Foursquare yet, here are four good reasons you should reconsider:

1. Go viral: If one person checks in to your business, they share the news with 50 or more friends on Facebook and Twitter. If 10 people check in, that’s 500. You can do the maths…

2. Get honest customer feedback: If someone checks in and loves your steak burger, you’ll find out straight away, along with all their friends. Conversely, if someone hates your schnitzel, everyone will find out. But at least you can do something about it.

3. Offer special discounts to people nearby: You can check out Foursquare places that are close to you and see if they have any special offers for anyone who checks in. Curve Café at Darwin Waterfront offers a “buy a drink and get a drink for a friend” for every second check-in. Worth a visit.

4. Reward your loyal customers: Get a loyalty program without the expensive set-up costs. Offer a free meal for every 10th check-in to your business. It’s easier to keep existing customers than to find new ones.

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