Location-Based Social Media Marketing for Small Businesses

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Location-Based Social Marketing Campaign Ideas

Foursquare's Explore feature shows all nearby locations that are eligible for a check-in.
Here are some marketing tactics you might use to attract social-network-connected customers to your business:

  • Give customers who simply check-in a small discount or a small reward—say, 5 to 10 percent off the regular price of a particular item. Consider offering a slightly larger reward to customers who leave a recommendation for your business on the network. Foursquare, Google+, Scvngr, and Yelp all encourage users to leave reviews after checking in at a location.
  • Offer bigger discounts when a large group of people checks in together. For example, you could take 15 percent off the restaurant tab when a group of five or more check in on a social network, or 1 percent off the bill for every person in a group of ten or more. You could also give everyone in the group a free nonalcoholic drink.
  • Offer specials for nearby wanderers. Some location-based social networks, such as Foursquare, let you create specials that appear only when someone checks in at a location nearby. You'll need to give something away—typically a discount or a buy-one/get-one-free deal—to entice foot traffic, but the offer could spark sales that you might have otherwise missed.
  • Create Scvngr challenges designed to stimulate sales. This works best for entertainment venues and restaurants, but it works for all types of organizations. If you're a restaurant owner with a big burger challenge, for example, you could issue a challenge on a social network and award discounts to diners who eat the entire meal in one sitting. Scvngr also lets you reward people who earn a certain number of points by doing specific things at a location. Get creative!
  • Not every reward needs to revolve around money. Rather than offering a discount, you could reserve choice parking spaces or prime tables for users who check in. Other possibilities include letting them skip lines, sample new products, or order from a special "check-in only" menu.
  • Promote your check-in specials through more-mainstream social media channels, such as Twitter and Facebook, to generate more awareness.

Foursquare lets business owners create specials that emphasize group check-ins and customer loyalty.
Foursquare has lots of customization options based on specific user criteria. The Friends and Swarm special options are intriguing, because they encourage several customers to check in simultaneously or over a relatively brief period of time. The network also offers a bevy of loyalty specials based on how many times a person has checked in at a particular location.

You can offer specials to first-time buyers, to people who have checked in a certain number of times, or to whoever becomes the "Mayor" of your business. In Foursquare parlance, the Mayor of a location is the person who has checked in there the most often in the previous 60 days. Showering your Mayors with bigger discounts is a great way to encourage other folks to come in more often in an effort to snag the top spot.

Has your business used location-based social networks to its advantage? How did it go? Was it cost effective, or did it wind up being a headache? Please share your experiences in the comments!

Brad Chacos is a freelance technology and business writer. His work has appeared in Laptop Magazine, the Intuit Small Business Blog, Maximum PC, and elsewhere.

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