Foursquare has been riding the social media marketing bandwagon in a big way by becoming the best friend of many small businesses. It’s popular with businesses because it gives them a place to put their name where it really counts—locally– and reach out to both frequent and potential customers in the area. Not only do small businesses use the network to draw new customers, but it creates many return customers and allows these businesses to build a solid local reputation. Last week foursquare released Local Updates, which enables brands to send customers news, updates and anything else they think the user may find interesting.
Since its launch in 2009, the free app has been used by people and their friends to make the most of where they are. “Checking in” to a business allows the customer to share and save the places that they visit and choose new ones based on personalized recommendations and deals. As of April 2009, there has been over 2 billion check-ins from over 20 million people worldwide.
Since the network’s early days, their Specials platform has offered incentives to users for checking in. Merchants were able to offer both loyalty-related specials (e.g. “Get a free yoga class on your third check-in”) and specials to attract new customers (e.g. “Free appetizer with your first check-in”). I personally signed up to the network about two years ago after I was told by a friend that an Italian restaurant by my house was offering a free bottle of wine with each check-in.
Local Updates, released last Wednesday, answers the requests of small businesses that were looking for a new way to communicate with the customers who love their businesses and are engaging with them on foursquare. Dubbed by the network’s product manager, Noah Weiss, as the “all-new foursquare for merchants,” Local Updates allows businesses to send text or images to loyal customers (based on the frequency of check-ins or whether someone has “liked” the business), with the option to share with others.
The way the feature works is this: whenever a foursquare user finds a business in the Explore feature, the updates will appear within the business’s profile. Upon being notified that the user is interested, the business can keep the user up to date with the happenings of the business, whether they are customers already or potential customers. It’s an easy way for users to keep up with news from the places they frequent, including things like special offers, a menu change, or a new shipment of the hottest shoes. The user has the option of receiving these updates from businesses, and if they are not interested they can easily opt out at any time. Here is an example of what an update may look like:
Foursquare is hoping that the feature will encourage word-of-mouth marketing, with the ideal course of action being for customers to have more motivation to tell their friends about the business upon receiving a message or update. Although it is not as useful of a marketing tool for big businesses, small businesses can really benefit from Local Updates. The free feature is an effective and affordable way for small businesses to market themselves to a large amount of potential customers while keeping their current ones happy.