By Pia Mara Finkell (@piamara)
If you have a bar, using Foursquare as a social promotional marketing tool is a no-brainer. The mayor’s beers are on the house! Of course. Restaurant owner? Stop in for lunch and get a free glass of wine. Done and done. Proprietor of the best winery in town? Well, Mr. Loyal Customer, stop on in to our tasting room five times this month and get yourself a free bottle of wine. No doi.
But what if you don’t have a storefront? What if your client doesn’t have a venue to hang its virtual shingle? I’ve written in the past about ways to convince traditional clients to use social media within their marketing mix. My own clients include regional bureaus, associations and governing boards. Foursquare and other location-based services didn’t initially seem to be the right tool for these clients. Websites, blogs, Twitter and Facebook were naturals, but when you represent an entire wine or food-producing region, where would people actually check in? What about the non-profit, publishing and entertainment industries? These would pose equal challenges.
In our case, it quickly became apparent we would have to put our big-marketing-kid pants on and get creative to make Foursquare work for our respective clients, despite their lack of bricks and mortar. Here are 5 ways to use location-based services without a place to hang your hat:
1. Everyone Loves a Good Bar Crawl: While it may be difficult to choose one location for potential customers to check in if you are a tourism board, wine region or other brand without a specific home, innovative brands like Explore Chicago, Chicago’s Tourism Board, have used the on-location badge to create a virtual crawl around their fine city through their Ferris Bueller’s Day Off promotion. Offering travelers a chance to feel Ferris’ thrill by pressing their foreheads against the glass at the Skydeck at Willis Towers or experiencing life like the Sausage King of Chicago over lunch at one of the many great restaurants, Explore Chicago used the ever-popular scavenger hunt concept to build their brand.
2. Find your voice and offer some advice: I’ve previously discussed finding your voice on Twitter, and this holds true for all social media, especially Foursquare. As Mashable pointed out, big brands like Bravo, Zagat and the History Channel are asserting their respective voices (be it that of their shows’ personalities, celebrities and cultural experts, or a nameless voice of a historically sage, virtual “friend”) through useful and interesting tips at stores, restaurants, bars, landmarks and beyond.
3. Grab Your Partner, Dosey Doe: Whether a brand chooses to support a local charity or other local small businesses related to their work, Foursquare offers great potential for cross-promotion. In a joint venture with Facebook, Pepsi created goodwill and brand awareness by sponsoring Foursquare’s Leaderboard and offering a donation for every check-in point added to the Leaderboard during a set time period.
Simple, but effective.
4. Link it up: Now that you have developed a loyal Twitter and Facebook following, why not do a little self-promotion? Drive traffic back to your other online presence (website, blog, Twitter and Facebook) through your check-ins and likewise, promote your Foursquare presence everywhere possible. If you are running a cool Explore Chicago-style scavenger hunt promotion, promote the heck out of it in your virtual spaces. This may seem obvious, but even big brands like Starbucks didn’t get this right the first time out of the gates.
5. Throw a party: Foursquare was officially launched into the techie world at the SXSW 2009 conference and took home the coveted “Breakout Mobile App” award. If it can work for the app itself, a true brick-and-mortarless brand, it can work for yours. Create a Foursquare check-in at your company’s event or party to encourage online prospective customers or fans to engage offline and continue the conversation IRL, face to face.