Consider Using Location-Based Social Networks to Drive Traffic

Using Foursquare to market your businessRecently AT&T released the results of a fairly extensive survey of small business owners conducted late last year concerning small businesses and technology.

While many of the results were not that surprising (Facebook is still leading as the go-to marketing platform of choice, and internet use via mobile devices is growing), one result is a telling statistic of future trends.

The use of “location-based social channels,” like Foursquare, has grown significantly, from 5% in 2010 to 9% in 2011.

These location-based services allow people to use their phone or other mobile devices (tablet, iPad, etc.) to interact with brands based on their locations at that moment. If, for example, you were interested in eating at a nearby restaurant you could use your smart phone to find out what was close by, and then further find if those businesses offer anything you were interested in. They also allow consumers to see what others have to say about these places (through reviews), or how popular they are (through the number of people that have visited, or “checked-in”).

According to the AT&T poll, 25% of small business owners using these platforms report that they are “very important” for sales generation (a dramatic rise from only 2% in 2010).

And more consumers, apparently, are also jumping on these platforms as well. Last June, for example, Foursquare broke 15 million users, a year over year growth of well over 1000%.

Now, granted, the most dramatic use of these platforms, as well as the primary concentration of users, resides in America’s largest cities: San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Washington DC. Further only 5% of consumers, total (as of last December) reported using location-based social platforms.

However, the fact remains that their use is growing rapidly.

What is more, Foursquare in particular boasts perhaps the more desirable consumer demographics for luxury-based brands, products and services. As of December 2011 its users—primarily in the low 20’s to low 30’s—reported an average annual household income of over $90,000.00.

So, is any of this important to small businesses in Las Cruces?

Frankly, yes. Now is the time to get your small business on board before all of your competitors do. As the trend grows, and use begins to penetrate smaller cities and regions, you can have an established presence with a loyal following and thereby force everyone else to play catch up with you. Here are some ideas to get your started.

Begin by claiming your presence on these platforms. Most small businesses owners do not know that they can simply login and take hold of their brands on sites like Yelp and Foursquare. Once you have done this, the platforms provide a wealth of options and guidance to help you make the most of their services (after all, the more active you are: the more users they will have). Most offer training, and free tips and resources. Use them!

Use features to reward those who check in the most at your location. Foursquare, for example, tracks the number of check-ins made by each of its users at each location. The person who checks in the most at a particular store or restaurant is made the “mayor” of that location by Foursquare. You can make a big deal of this by giving the “mayor” special incentives—like discounts or freebies—for being such a loyal customer. Be sure to publicize this through signs and notices in and around your location to drive competition between customers.

Create coupons and rewards for making check-ins social. Check-ins are great (obviously it means a customer bothered to show up), but what makes it valuable is that they let other people know they have been there. Tell them how important it is to you that they do this, ask them to post their check-in to Facebook or Twitter to let their friends and family know, and reward those who do with simple or inexpensive incentives.

Always remember that one of the driving forces behind consumer-spending and loyalty through social media platforms is the influence of friends and family. In other words, I will spend where my friends spend money. If a customer checks in at your business, and their friends and family member see it, the customer has potentially influenced those people to shop or buy from you as well.

Location-based social networks do not work for every type of business. But, for retail and hospitality services especially, these platforms are being proven extremely effective. And though it may be true in many cases that trends take some time to find us here in Las Cruces, we are found eventually, so preparing for it in advance is a great idea.

Word One Consulting
575-496-6807
clint @ wordoneconsulting.com
2263 S. Main
Las Cruces, NM 88005