social media how toDo you run a local business?  Maybe a restaurant, coffee shop or retail outlet?  Do you want a fun way to encourage repeat traffic to your businessDoes the idea of your customers talking about your business to all their friends sound interesting? If so, you need to pay attention to Foursquare and Geotagging.

What is Geotagging?

Simply put, geotagging is the process of attaching geographical data (longitude and latitude) to photographs, videos, websites, status updates and even emails.  This geotagged data shows where the photos, videos, etc., were created or modified.

Foursquare map

Google Maps shows the details for a salad bar in Austin, Texas—aligned on a map using latitude and longitude values.

The technology originally started off as a feature, but entrepreneurs like Dennis Crawley and Naveen Selvadurai anticipated that geotagging would become a much bigger phenomenon. As a result, they created Foursquare with foundations based solely on geotagging.

What’s Foursquare?

Foursquare is a social network fused with a game that anyone can play, from anywhere in the world. It allows people to “check in” to any location they visit. To play, all a person needs is a cell phone that can browse the internet (and a decent signal!).


Foursquare lets users "check in" to locations as they travel, unlock items and complete "to do" lists, creating a game around the service itself.

Players are rewarded for their continued check-ins via a point scheme by acquiring badges and earning status ranks. For example, Foursquare will give the “local” badge to users who check into the same venue more than three times in one week. If that person checks into a location more than anyone else, they will become its Mayor.

Why People Love Using Foursquare.

Foursquare offer

Foursquare Mayors receive special attention for their loyalty. Wouldn't you reward your most loyal customers?

People love a great game, and surprisingly, Foursquare is exactly that.

When you become the Mayor of a venue, it feels like a real accomplishment. It opens you up to added perks that only you are entitled to. You want to brag about it to your friends and networks. It becomes viral.

A pretty accurate rule of thumb for any business is this: Whatever people find fun and engaging is where your business should be.

Andrew McCormick summed it up perfectly in his article in Marketing Magazine:

“Brands support the service by offering deals to participants based, for example, on the number of times someone ‘checks in’ to their local branch.

The benefits for companies include increased footfall and the recruitment of a network
of brand ambassadors
who will pass on recommendations to their friends and Twitter followers. Brands can also gather insights into the behavior of customers and what incites consumers to visit their stores.”

Andrew didn’t mention that Foursquare actually integrates with Facebook as well, so there’s an even tastier proposition for pursuing a marketing strategy that incorporates social geotagging networks.

Why You Should Use Geotagging With Your Marketing Strategy

Foursquare is great for generating a buzz around your brand. You can showcase your offers to a wider audience through viral sharing. It also incentivizes people to visit your business, which leads to buying your products/services.

You should take Internet-based games like Foursquare seriously—they are big business.

For example, according to Technology Talks, in 2009, Zynga earned $145 million in less than 6 months as a result of their flagship Facebook game, Farmville.

Foursquare is growing at a steady rate with a user base of around 150,000 people and it’s definitely gaining momentum with new deals and partnerships…

Who’s Already Leveraging This Geotagging Service?

Recently, Foursquare teamed up with movie producers to promote movies like Valentine’s Day.  Also department stores like Debenhams and fast-food businesses like Domino’s Pizza are now partnering with Foursquare to offer added perks to regular customers.

This is why you need to be thinking of ways you can implement geotagging into your marketing strategy—you should be aiming to get a piece of the action while it’s still buzzworthy and free.

A 5-Step Action Plan for Implementing Foursquare


Registering your business with Foursquare is as easy as 1-2-3.

  1. Find the button above on the Foursquare home page to register your business. Click it and follow the onscreen instructions. It’s a very simple, quick process (you don’t need to register to create incentives as you’ll see, but if you do your offers appear on the website and mobile apps).
  2. Create materials that advertise your participation with Foursquare such as posters for your storefront and for the walls inside.
  3. Advertise your participation on your website, blog, Facebook and Twitter profiles and other social networks.
  4. Engage with Foursquare users who visit your business. Thank them for playing and let them feel noticed and appreciated.
  5. If you’re serious about engaging your users, you could mention the Mayor each month on your website or blog and maybe even offer added perks.The key is in creating loyal, avid fans who will represent your brand when you’re asleep. If you do this successfully, the return on investment should far overshadow the prizes you offer as incentives.

What if I Don’t Sell Location-based Products or Services?

You could even take it a step further and create working relationships with businesses that complement your product or service. For example, if you have a continuity product or service like web hosting, why not approach a local computer store and organize an offer whereby the Mayor gets a 15% voucher off the monthly premium hosting package?

This way, even if the store wants to sweeten the deal and serve up its own perks as well, it could still leverage your service to make a recurring commission from any customer it refers for you.

It’s a Win-Win Situation.

Even if you don’t have a continuity product or service, or you feel that what you have wouldn’t sell on this platform, you can still learn from businesses like Foursquare.

Geotagging is just a vehicle that Foursquare taps to achieve success. Ingredients that matter are engagement, compulsion and loyalty, among others, which gently guide users into the sales funnel.

If you can replicate the same sentiment that Foursquare users feel when they interact with the service, there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t have the same success.

Do you think there’s potential for your business to offer perks to customers through Foursquare? What are your thoughts on this new marketing strategy? I’d love to hear your comments below!

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  • Im sure geotagging will have its place in business as well as in non-business contexts so there is certainly no argument from me on that point, however…

    It seems of late that everyone is trying to figure out a way to “sell” social media (twitter, foursquare, whatever) and how “to sell” on social media. This to me is a mistake.

    All major social media sites (friendster, myspace, facebook, twitter, and on and on) started out without a sales pitch on all sides. This is what made them genuine and attractive in the first place. Now days, twitter is infested with people selling stuff, facebook is littered with remnants of Mafia Wars contraband, and myspace…well, nobody cares about myspace anymore, right?

    The problem is systemic and myspace offers a perfect case study.
    Q. When did myspace become irrelevant?
    A. The moment it was sold to a giant corporation.

    I guess the point of my rambling is to say that figuring out how to make money on Foursquare should not be the first priority of those who join, and if it is, then the rest of us will not want to join…what FS will wind up with is bunch of businesses trying to sell to…to…no one…unless you are a B2B company in which case knock yourself out.

  • pmcgovern

    Great post. Thanks very much. I have been thinking of ways to help drive business at the micro level. This post is a very big help!

  • I like the idea of GeoTagging and the potential it provides, but I just loathe foursquare as an application…looks juvenile to me…the Mayor stuff has the potential to push people away.

    Still, not your fault. Good article.

  • shannonevans

    Geotagging with apps like Foursquare is secondary to claiming your local listing on Google, Yahoo, and Bing as well as other local listing sites. While fun apps encourage return customers you first have to get them in the door! To get them to find you in the first place should be your first order of business. It is amazing to me how many businesses still invest thousands of dollars a year in Yellow Page, et al and yet ignore the first and foremost place people search for local good and services today: the Web!
    Claiming/Creating your listing is fast and easy and with the major search engines it is also free (there are up sells on some) and gives you great SEO bank. If you don’t claim your listing someone can claim it and essentially hijack your listing. If you do claim it any review, media mention, etc will eventually aggregate to your local Google listing and begin to work for you to keep pushing you up in search rankings. At the end of the day it is about being found by potential customers. If you are not on page one of maps for your keywords and your niche they will never know you exist. Most local search today is done online and so it is critical for your business to land on the first page of local listings attached to the map. I have co-authored two books on Local Search and SEO to help small businesses create and refine their own listings. Local Search Secrets exposed is a step-by-step prescriptive book that helps any business with a local presence get found now.
    Geotagging is growing in importance and it starts with creating a local listing with the big boys: Google, Yahoo, Bing, Judy’s Book, Yelp, and City Search…then following up with Social elements like Twitter, Foursquare, Whirrl, etc. Best part of all…they are all free! It just costs a couple of hours of your time to create them.

  • Thanks for the post. I have been a fan of FourSquare for a while and think that there are all kinds of great applications for businesses both big and small. The recent deal FourSquare inked with Starbucks is just another indication of how quickly this is growing and it’s importance.

    My only addition to business owners thinking about playing in the mobile market would be that before you even claim your business on a mobile site, you might want to go take a look to see what your current site looks like on a mobile device. If you are going to interact in the mobile world, you should make sure people can easily see who they are interacting with on the mobile web.

  • Clement, great post! As a consumer I started a hobby site to aggregate all the deals for Foursquare, Gowalla and Yelp. ( I use the top location based services and hope to see more and more businesses embrace the new business model.

  • Totally agree. The power of Twitter, Foursquare and other services is the community it attracts and the conversations spurred, not the a way to save money or attract business.

    Granted, this is a completely legit secondary goal, but it really kills the enjoyment if focused on too heavily.

  • Great point TD…making money as a secondary goal is perfectly fine. I think people will consider this a minor point but I think its a major one. We are talking about a fundamental approach to something which then affects EVERYTHING that comes out of it.

    MS Windows is a monolithic Operating System, all or nothing type of deal, closed-off and proprietary. Linux is a modular OS, piece-meal type of deal, open-sourced and non-proprietary.

    From this fundamental approach, every step that came after it was affected by this fundamental factor. It attracts diff type of people on both development side as well as user side. Has diff money making models and so on and so on…

    I hope that wasn’t too geeky to be a good analogy but I though it fits.

  • Any ideas for me as a realtor? What could I offer? I think this is great. I know farmville and if this is anything like farmville, it’s gonna go wild and I want a part of it.

  • I completely agree! These services do nothing for your sense of community which is something I feel we need to regain. Using Foursquare as a location based game is fine but what does it actually achieve and how long-lived is it likely to be?!

    I prefer the approach of giving back to the community and sharing experiences and promoting discussion not simply using something purely for what I can get out of it.

    I founded Locassa for that very reason, I want to see a return to group discussion, community spirit and good old fashioned exploration!

  • It’s a good point Maria, I don’t think the existing services are much use because they are SO focused on a particular aim or target market and working with new companies (or types of items) becomes a substantial piece of work and therefore only the big players get direct interaction with the likes of FourSquare.

    I have never understood why these services made their platform so restrictive it seems like you are missing a huge market of possibilities; we try to avoid this by ensuring we have a continually growing list of item types we wish to support as well as offering more opportunities for working with other companies quickly and easily.

  • I can see this working exceptionally well for concentrated areas like universities and the businesses on campus or nearby that cater to college students. Everyone is on campus, everything is nearby. With geotagging you can see where all your buds are, where they shop/eat, and what’s going on. And like you said, businesses can promote themselves with the help of college students spreading the word with geotagging.

  • I like FourSquare in general, mostly to point out points of interest that I may have never checked out before. But I see a “potential unintended dangerous and possibly harmfull and costly flaw!”, similar to Facebooks “Status Update” or even “Twitter Update”. Users of any of these three services should not enter where they are at a specific moment or time frame, but afterwards. Obviously there are stalkers not necessarily, stalking the individual, but possibly watching for potential Homes to Vandalize or rob? Something to definitely think about before announcing your 10, 20, 30, 50, or even 100 miles away from your home.

  • I think the key is not precluding people from using your service purely because they don’t wish to broadcast their location to the world. By having several levels of ‘location’ and furthermore several levels of people who you have to authorise to see such locations you can achieve what you want, but only if you don’t restrict service use only to people who do not care about privacy!

  • I would love to use foursquare for my university, but I don’t think our students are on it. It is a small liberal arts college. Maybe I can just start our bookstore using it and see what happens.

    Sidenote: I friggin’ love this blog!!!!!!! Posts are always helpful.

  • I have resisted Foursquare just to see what it was going to do. I have been impressed over the last month or so. And now, thanks to this post, I think I will attempt to be the trendsetter in my community. As far as I know, there aren’t any businesses awarding the “Mayor”. I think I’ll give it a shot.

  • Just checked foursquare to sign up my business. They don’t want me yet! 🙁 Just bars, coffee shops, places people “linger”. What ‘s up with that?

  • My exact point above (in reply to Maria)!

  • I think you are right dino when you say these programs should not focuss on business. The program is supposed to give people a good experience, be able to talk about place they do or do not like and just have conversations with their friends. However, Ffoursquare becomes a better experience if businesses do care about what people mention there and when they reward their loyal customers. It should be a win-win situation for both the business and the customer. Opposite to Facebook, Twitter and the likes, this site is built around experiences with businesses and thus business should be involved.

  • Clement Yeung

    Hello, thanks for the comments!

    The success of Foursquare so far has been in its ability to successfully augment and leverage the other networks like Facebook and Twitter.

    For Foursquare to try to emulate what those networks have in terms of “conversations spurred” would be illogical and also suicidal. There’s no need for them to pretend to be something that they are not – they are successfully satiating a need that will continue to evolve and grow.

    I agree with this – community comes first, monetization comes second. Businesses should understand that in order to successfully tap into the groundswell, they must first understand and become a value-adding part of it.

  • Clement Yeung

    You’re very welcome!

  • Clement Yeung

    A mentor once told me, “You’re not successful if you’re not upsetting someone.”

    Thanks for the comment 😉

  • Clement Yeung

    This is good advice and would make a great pre-cursor to this article. Thanks!

  • Clement Yeung

    Excellent addition Jack!

    To clarify for our audience – users will not wait for sites to load on their mobile phone if they are too heavy on graphics.

    To get around this, mobile sites are simplified versions of the original design that show differently when viewing them via a mobile phone.

    If you want your business to be viewable on the go you should implement mobile CSS stylesheets.

  • Clement Yeung

    That’s a brilliant idea Josh… so there’s nothing else like this at the moment? I think you’re filling a very big need here.

  • Clement Yeung

    There was never a better example of when a social geotagging service is in more demand, than the event I’m just leaving now.

    At SXSW (South by Southwest) Foursquare and Gowalla are essential survival items for effective networking.

  • That was a very interesting piece of info Jeroen…I didnt realize (perhaps somewhat naively) that FSQ is built around as you say “experiences with businesses”….which then begs a question. Why would individuals want to use it? Having a pleasant experience engaging in a business transaction with someone and then talking about it is boring. The only time anyone wants to talk about their experience with a business is when they are wronged, yes? The discounts offered via FSQ I really dont see as a major attraction, at least it wouldn’t attract me to a site/app/whatever. Thoughts?

  • Agree, right now we’re just having fun with the website and using all the check in services. I’ll keep you posted as we progress.

  • petekane

    That’s pretty cool how some are leveraging the mayor concept. Thanks for starting it.

  • Great post. Geotargeting has become so important in recent months. Not having a strong foothold in the local searches can be detrimental to your online business in the very near future.

  • Kim

    Some brands don’t need though to be all about Foursquare….they have a different brand experience they want to be associated with, right? I’m thinking about some of our better local pet shops who offer loyalty points for say self serve pet washes, after so many you get a free one. So if the buzz becomes whether you are the mayor of a place vs the offering of the business you could lose some lustre on what your bs is or stands for. So it’s important that the brand message be central to whatever the loyalty reward is for becoming mayor so that branding is not lost within the game.

  • Hi Dino,

    You’ve started a great conversation. Thank you.

    When it comes to discounts, would you be interested in a 10% discount for every user who logs into FSQ on a particular day? After all, it’s no different that a one day sale – it simply appeals to a specific niche group within a market.

    FSQ has several examples of businesses that have used their software to increase revenue and customer satisfaction. The reason is that the customers enjoy earning the rewards by checking-in.


  • In short, no. But then again, different strokes, right?

    For me, its a catch 22.

    Would I be interested in getting a 10% discount on a large ticket item? Certainly. If Im buying a flat screen for say 2K, 10% makes a dent. But unless Im already a user of FSQ, how would I even know about the discount?

    And then one might say that IF you are a user of FSQ, THEN you get to enjoy the discount.

    Problem with that is now I have to buy this item on FSQ’s time, not mine.

    I dont think Im a good test subject for these kinds of quandaries. I never look for on-sale days to buy stuff, I do it when Im ready.

    I guess Im skeptical of FSQs usefulness to average person. But to be fair, I did see a sale on skeptics for 90% off, so what does that tell you. 🙂

  • Maybe I see the use of 4Square in a wrong light Dino, but I was thinking that when it has a sufficient number of users, it will show you a number of restaurants, cafe´s or whatever kind of shop you are looking for in the vicinity where you are at a given moment. The most interesting will be however the experiences of fellow customers, giving you a good overview of the service any given business gives to its customers. These businesses can increase their customer loyalty, and therefore improve their comments on 4Square, by giving them a better service.

  • I would love for an actual user of FSQ to confirm this, but is the idea behind FSQ the business listings a la GPS unit (Some GPS units have Points Of Interest built in) plus user review a la

    If so, I can see that as useful, and by the way, why wouldn’t FSQ explain it in this way?…and if FSQ is not POI + yelp, then someone should be putting that service together 🙂

  • @Clement Great information. Never heard of FSq until you wrote about it.

    @shannonevans: I thoroughly agree that “Geotagging is growing in importance and it starts with creating a local listing with the big boys: Google, Yahoo, Bing, Judy’s Book, Yelp, and City Search…then following up with Social elements like Twitter, Foursquare, Whirrl, etc. ”

    Some of my clients have storefronts and have put their local businesses on the web. While participating in something like FourSquare may not be at the top of their list, I would recommend that make provision for their current (and potential) clients who might be using it. In this competitive climate, it makes sense to identify segments of the market, and if the entry cost is low enough, find a way to gain those customers who make up that segment. And if businesses who have a website are already using a map on the site, Geotagging, and stuff like FSq, should be an easy next step.

  • shannonevans

    Clement, I would be happy to send you a review copy of the Local Search book.
    It would be interesting to hear your feedback on the contents of our prescriptive book on local search for small businesses.

  • Clement Yeung

    Hi Shannon,

    I’d be happy to!


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  • Koko

    Thank you for the great guide.

  • It’s a good thing that I found this post. I know it’s a bit too late, but I still want to thank and Clement Yeung for this article. Starting a business is risky, don’t you agree? People who are planning to start one, always think whether if they’re going to be successful or not. The Internet has become one of the best tools for them. You’ve mentioned something about FourSquare, right? I remember seeing a FourSquare wall post in one of my friends’ Facebook walls, and I wondered what it was: It was a geotagging game. I can see it, moreover, as something that can promote a business locally. Correct me if I’m wrong, okay?

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  • Guest

    I have never tried Geotagging but read a lot on the intgernet about it. I know this is one of the best way to promote the business i will try it for my website 

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  • Howard Sutton

    We just opened a Kids hair Salon pigtails and crewcuts and need to promote this business in Stapleton, Co. We have a low budget for advertising any helpful ways to get noticed would be great!