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Being mayor isn’t what it used to be. When I boasted to a fellow patron recently of my newly crowned mayorship of our local watering hole, my pride was met with congratulations on one side and a blank stare on the other. The girl of the blank stare then confessed, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Not wanting her to miss out, I explained: I signed up for Foursquare for “business purposes” in November 2010, after having penned a piece for Vertical Marketing Network on location-based social media. My curiosity was piqued, if not my interest. I was afraid Foursquare would become a part of the rest, one more application or website I had to visit on a regular basis in order to keep up. Still, inquiring minds had to know how these media, which allow consumers to “check-in” via Smartphone or Internet to earn virtual badges, points and actual goods, worked. In November, I reported that Foursquare had an estimated 4 million users. One month later, I was one of a network of 5 million, and while many consumers (witness: girl of the blank stare) have yet to tune in to location-based social media, one can hardly argue it’s a passing fad. Facebook’s now famous 500 million users can use its Places feature to connect with brands and business; Yelp reports having 31 million unique visitors per month; and Gowalla, while seeming to be “the little guy” with an estimated 600,000 users, continues to win industry accolades. Social media — especially the location-based variety that encourages consumers to connect with businesses, and vice versa — continue to be all the buzz. And with three months of Foursquare under my belt, the power and pull of location-based promotions is hard to deny.
Maybe I’m just blogging out loud, but it seems like in the world of social networking more is more. Savvy businesses would be smart to emulate empowered consumers as they sign up and stimulate the increasingly active alleyways of the Internet.
Location-based social media has consumers rapt, be it for the sweet deals or the sheer thrill of competition. As I noted in November, consumers using location-based social media “can ‘check-in’ using their mobile devices and then connect with businesses, friends and even celebrities, in some cases earning ‘badges,’ points and other rewards, both real and virtual.” In all cases, users are competing for the title of “mayor” of any one business or location. Being mayor is not unlike being crowned Homecoming Queen; it doesn’t really matter, but everyone knows who you are. There are other — perhaps more important — draws for businesses, though. A friend recently told me she uses Foursquare to keep track of new restaurants and stores worth checking out. Another admitted to using the application solely to find deals and specials in her neighborhood. I found the uses for marketers impressive, as witnessed through four types of promotions:
— The First Time Reward — Welcome to Cubana Social Cafe — Half off yucca fries on your first check-in. A small, free giveaway for first-time customers is as inviting as it is enticing.
— The Keep ‘Em Coming Back Freebie — Welcome to Chili’s — Check-in at Chili’s and get free chips and salsa at every check-in. Like the name says, a long-running promotion like this one will keep customers coming back for more.
— The Sizable Seduction — Welcome to skinnyskinny — Topple the current mayor and get 30 percent off every single item in our store. A generous discount like this one, from a luxury skin-care and organics store, is the perfect balance of healthy competition and hearty reward.
— The Prime-Time Present — Welcome to Gap — Check-in at any Gap store and get 30 percent off 1 regular-priced item, and Gap will donate $1 to charity campinteractive.org. A big brand, a big discount and a charitable nod is a win-win for everyone.
With so many ways to engage consumers, smart brands and businesses would be remiss not to explore location-based promotional opportunities. So, log-in. Check-in. And — with luck — cash in.