Your restaurant’s Foursquare strategy in one post

Foursquare: It’s time to get on this bandwagon.

It’s as though Foursquare was custom-built for the hospitality industry.

Over at Buzztime yesterday, we held our second of three social media marketing webinars for bars and restaurants. We talked about the mechanical where-to-click as well as the big picture. Good stuff.

Part one focused on creating and leveraging your Facebook Page and Places. Part three will focus on whichever platform gets the most requests next. Twitter? Groupon?

(Get in touch with me and I’ll give you a link to watch the replay.)

I’m amazed at the number of bars and restaurants who are skeptical about Foursquare. Why is this? It continues to grow. Rapidly.

We’re talking about a free marketing vehicle that allows your customers — who have gone out of their way to check-in at your location — to broadcast to their friends that they are at your location, what they’re doing there, whom they’re doing it with, and how they’re enjoying themselves.

Think about that.

Foursquare’s latest app update allows those checking-in to add photos. And users can comment on one another’s check-ins, too. What’s not to like about this?

But let’s get to that strategy-in-one-post thing. Here you go:

1. Forget the Mayor special out of the gates.

For now, you can only have one special at a venue. You’ve got to choose from the five types of specials available. Many people go after the Mayor special first. But since your Mayor is the person who’s checked-in the most over the last 60 days, they’re already there consistently. So don’t use up your one “official” Foursquare special with this one.

“Mayor” is a designation that’s granted regardless of anything you do. And you should post that loud and proud throughout your location that you’ve got a Mayor special, and reward that Mayor handsomely. But don’t use the Foursquare specials platform to do this yet.

2. Focus on the ‘Frequency’ special first.

Since you won’t be using the Mayor special, the one I recommend is the Frequency special. When you’re just getting started, I like this over the Count special because you’re rewarding their repeat visits (i.e., every 3rd visit), not just their first, or third, or whatever interval, visit.

If you’re bound and determined to choose something other than the Frequency special, go for the Custom. A full list of them can be seen at the bottom of the Foursquare business venues page.

3. Get your staff up-to-speed.

If there’s a subject you want your staff well-versed in, it’s Foursquare. Don’t make customers who have gone through the effort of checking-in wait for a manager to swing by so they can show him or her their smartphone screen. (This is the proof that they’ve earned a special.)

Teach your staff about Foursquare, how and why customers check-in, what your special is, and how it’s redeemed. Make this airtight.

4. Broadcast your Foursquare presence everywhere.

Got a whiteboard? Use it. Got someone who can create posters for you? Call ’em. Got Buzztime’s advertising platform or some other digital signage system? Be all over those. Smartphones are on the rise, and users can have an iPhone, Droid phone, or a Blackberry phone to check-in from your establishment. Encourage them to do it outside of their use of that phone.

5. Change gears periodically.

Once you get some momentum going with that initial Frequency special, change gears! Keep people on their toes! They will be LOOKING for a new special from you anyway. Move on to a Custom special, or a Count special, once people realize you’re a fun and cool and creative place to eat, drink, and check-in.

Listen, there’s no rule on any of this. You definitely want to be involved. And I’m simply giving you a boost if you’re at ground zero and are excited to get started…but don’t know how to start.

Foursquare is a killer social media platform for launching a free, but buzz-worthy customer loyalty program. If you don’t believe me, take a look at what Paul Barron discovered while tracking check-ins across more than 100 restaurant concepts.

It’s time to get on this bandwagon.

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2 thoughts on “Your restaurant’s Foursquare strategy in one post

  1. Good stuff, Brandon. Why do you prefer the frequency special (rewarding existing clients) over a new business special that unlocks on first check-in? In general, I do think frequency and count specials are easiest to administer – especially because the special can’t be unlocked unless the customer qualifies – that makes things a lot easier for staff on a busy day. In my opinion, the non-automated claim process (where staff has to verify whether someone is eligible) is a bridge too far for many starting Foursquare projects.

    • Thanks Jan for commenting and the additional thoughts. To answer your question…

      I like the Frequency special because it encourages the one thing bars/restaurants need badly right now: frequent, loyal customers. If I ONLY reward them for that first check-in, it’s all that one food/service/atmosphere experience. If I reward them every 3 check-ins, let’s say, I’m encouraging that repetitive behavior.

      But also, I’m tapping into this:

      From the Foursquare “player” or user’s perspective…If I see there’s a special available at a specific venue, even if that special only rewards a third check-in, but I’ve never tried the place…I might be willing to give it a try. The reason is I know two things about this place before even stepping foot inside.

      1) I know this is a pretty hip, social media-savvy place to be placing specials on Foursquare to begin with. They think like me.

      2) If I do like this place, I’m now just two steps away from that reward.

      But obviously, with or without Foursquare, the bar/restaurant still has to nail that food/service/atmosphere experience.

      Your comment also points out the need for Foursquare to open things up and allow for multiple specials.

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