How To Make Location-Based Social Media Work for Your Business

Now that interest and enthusiasm for daily deals sites, such as Groupon, LivingSocial, and Google Offers have begun to wane, a new wave of social media of platforms lies in their wake. Location-based services, such as Yelp and Foursquare are being heavily targeted to small businesses as a way to increase sales and customer engagement.

But location-based social media is far from the holy grail model of small business success. To make it work, you need to approach it all with a solid strategy. Here are some tips to make location-based social media work for your business and not against it:

Know your business. Many small business owners learned the hard way that offering daily deals just wasn’t good for them and their business model. The same can be said of using location-based services to entice customers to patron your business. If you are constantly having to cut into your profit margins with discounts that don’t bring repeat business or you are unfamiliar with these platforms and are having a hard time eliciting user engagement and interest, then it may not be for you.

The bottom line here is that you need to be realistic regarding how well these kinds of services will fit into your business, how adept you can expect to be with them, and what kinds of offers and enticements you can comfortably support to drum up interest and sales.

Know your customers. Even if you know that you can comfortably carry out a savvy marketing campaign on Foursquare and the like, you have to make sure that your customers are the kinds of people who would use such services. If most of your customers aren’t there already, then don’t bother spending inordinate amounts of time and money trying to drag them there.

If they are on the network, then first spend some time learning how they use it and what is important to them.

Make it simple. Give customers who check-in a small reward for doing so, such as a discount or coupon, and maybe offer a different reward for customers who leave a recommendation for your business on the network. You can use this service like a loyalty program. Make sure your rewards are clear, meaning customers know what they are getting when they perform certain actions, and that you follow through.

Make it worth their while. This is extremely important… While you don’t want to break the bank with offers that are too costly, you still want to make sure that the reward is connected to the level of effort required to access it. And building on the last point above, make sure that you acknowledge and reward active users. These are the people who take the time to leave recommendations, upload photos of the business, or leave other “tips” to future customers. Having such people on board is extremely valuable to your business because they are helping you promote your products and services. Woo them!!! The worst thing you can do is totally ignore their efforts.

In short, using location-based social media platforms in your marketing mix, may or may not be right for your business. If you consider the points above, you can save yourself a whole lot of headache later on and money, too, and which small business owner doesn’t want that?

Integrating Social and Location-Based Networks with Your Customer Loyalty Program

It’s amazing how many small businesses (and even some of their customers) still cling on to old-fashioned, dusty, musty loyalty programs that fail to increase revenues and customer loyalty. Being weened from those cardboard punch cards and plastic loyalty cards takes some serious re-wiring.



This flies in the face of the fact that most customer loyalty programs these days fall flat precisely because the methods used are out of touch with today’s consumer habits. There’s none of the engagement that many consumers are so used to now.

Tying a traditional loyalty program to social and location-based check-ins can change that. But, just keep in mind, what most social media-niks and gurus won’t tell you is that in order to capitalize on all these “free” platforms you will need to invest a great deal of time and resources. Don’t expect the revenues to increase overnight, either.

Once you are open to changing the way you reward repeat customers and your “brand advocates,” and you are willing and able to set aside enough time and effort to initiate these changes, then consider the following five tips:

1. Understand social networking. Sounds simple. Yet many business owners plunge into various types of social media marketing without having ever used any of the services they are targeting. Each social network has its own flavor, its own population of users, and its own use. To fully understand the unique characteristics of any social media platform, you need to use it- and not as a business owner, but as an individual. Only then will you really understand how to use the platform in ways that will generate customer interest and reward your loyal patrons.

2. Decide which networks to focus on. In addition to the “marquee” networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, there are many, many social media platforms out there that small business owners could use to vamp up their loyalty programs. Some examples include: social recommendations sites, such as Gowalla and Yelp; social check-in sites, dominated by Foursquare; daily deals sites, such as Groupon and LivingSocial, and smaller, new kids on the block, such as Belly. If you are just starting out, pick two or three networks for your business where you will invest some time and money.

3. Deciding what actions to reward. The next big decision to make is determining which of your customers’ actions you would like to reward, and how you will reward them. Again, there are many directions that you can take, so it really depends on your specific business and the makeup of your target market. Some examples include: “checking-in” to your business at a specific time, tweeting a message about your business or leaving a review, coming into your business several days in a row or several times in one week.

4. Take a look at tools to help reward brand loyal customers. As you go about developing your new loyalty program, keep in mind that there are numerous tools and services out there specifically designed to help you with the process. This article offers a nice list of six such options.

5. Monitor analytics. Regardless of what platforms you are focusing on, your customer loyalty program is only as good as your monitoring of it. Why? Because often the information you can glean from monitoring the success of the program as well as how your customers are responding, who is responding, and when, can give you vital marketing clues. Your data has value because you can use it to make profitable business decisions. If, for example, you see that certain customers tend to check-in at specific times, then you can create specials geared towards them. Many social media platforms, such as Facebook and Foursquare have their own analytics systems. Others, such as Twitter, may require a third party app.

In short, to run a successful loyalty program these days you need to foster engagement- the kind of engagement that can only come about via social networks. Learn how to tap into this wave, and you’ll be in the best position to create a loyal customer following who will keep coming back for more (with their friends.)

What is Foursquare and How Can Your Business Use It?

For about a year now, the blogosphere has been abuzz about the virtues and possibilities of Foursquare. For those of you who are still unacquainted with the social networking app and how it can be used in your business, here is a brief primer.


Foursquare is a neat social networking application that allows you to broadcast your location to your friends. It uses your phone’s GPS to identify your physical location, which it sends to Foursquare, Facebook, and Twitter friends. It is also a game of sorts which awards points and prizes to frequent users. Tech-savvy business owners have been increasingly implementing Foursquare to promote their businesses.

Like Twitter and Facebook, Foursquare offers free exposure to an unlimited number of potential customers. Every time users visit a particular business, they can “check in” to Foursquare, advertising their location and the business. As of October 2010, Foursquare has more than 4 million users throughout the world.

Unlike Facebook, Foursquare encourages users to repeatedly mention businesses. Some businesses prompt Foursquare plugs by rewarding users with free gifts after a predetermined number of check-ins. Others promise freebies to customers who check in and add a public recommendation for the business. That recommendation pops up when friends use Foursquare within the vicinity of the business.

Since March 2010, Foursquare has allowed small businesses to arrange special offers and view the number of check-ins to their business. At least 10,000 merchants have taken advantage of the technology.