Location-Based Social Media Marketing; or Foursquare Isn’t a Playground Game Anymore!

Chrissanne Long is an Internet Marketing Strategist and the co-founder of Marketing System Blueprints, LLC, a Lakeland, FL – based company that leverages Internet technology to enable offline businesses to build stronger, more meaningful relationships with their customers.

The advent of the Internet has enabled us to connect to the rest of the world via the World Wide Web.  Obviously, since the “.com boom”, things have changed and we have grown more advanced.  Location-Based Social Media is an emerging trend that might offer an exciting way for people to begin seeing how wonderful Lakeland really is.

Recently, Lakeland has become “a little Mecca of cool,” thanks to those businesses and visionaries who have realized that it really will require embracing the advancements that Internet technology is bringing, to make Lakeland more fun and interactive.  Today, consumers can get whatever they want through the Internet.  Buyers have shifted their purchasing habits to what’s convenient.  Now, more than ever it is imperative that our local businesses unite and shift the focus back to what made America the amazing country that it is: relationships.

One way businesses can begin building relationships and have fun with their customers is through marketing with location-based social media.  There are many location-based applications available, but I am talking about the location-based game, foursquare, and other similar applications that are becoming more and more popular in many cities.  The basic premise of the game is this:  A person downloads the foursquare application to their cell phone.  They create an account and they begin visiting their favorite venues.  When they arrive at a venue, no doubt, with their cell phone in hand, they open the application and “check-in”. The application monitors their location through the GPS system installed in most Smart Phones today.

The information about the venues- the business name, address, etc. originally was extracted from a database similar to the one used to display Google maps listings for local businesses.  However, the people playing the game can add locations to the game as well.  This allows new businesses and businesses not already in the database to be included in the foursquare grid.

When a person checks in to a venue, they are, in a sense advertising their loyalty to that location.  The more they go there, the more advertising they are doing.  Today, businesses are beginning to leverage that advertising and take it to higher levels.  Once a person checks in a certain number of times, they have the ability to become the mayor of those locations they frequent more than other users.  If someone is already the mayor of a location, other visitors are told this when they check in.  This is where the businesses can begin to incentivize the use of foursquare!  The bottom line is that people are playing this game and games like it because they want something.  They want to be recognized.  They want to build and nurture relationships.

In order for this new type of marketing to really begin to show its advantages, people in the local area need to begin participating.  People do not have to be “friends” with people to begin learning about cool new places and events.  When a person checking into a venue sees something they think other people will want to know, they can add a “tip” or a “to-do”.  Foursquare keeps these tips and to-dos for other people who check in to the same place to find when they arrive.

Additionally, if a business joins in the fun, they can post specials.  When a person’s GPS signal is recognized to be near a special, they will have an option to view it.  Imagine.  Someone is three blocks from your business, with no intention of stopping by, but they check in at the hardware store and your business is offering a free appetizer/ or a 10% discount for foursquare users and, voila! you have a new customer.

I recommend doing some research before you begin to add foursquare to your marketing mix, because people are very curious about how they can participate and they will certainly begin to ask questions.  You will want to know how to field these questions and you will also want to determine how you can get your venue on the foursquare grid as well.  Once you understand how your business can leverage this exciting new tool, you can establish a plan that makes your local establishment’s brand one that people recognize – even if they are not living here!

Currently, there is only one locally owned and operated restaurant in Lakeland (only two total) that has special offers advertised on foursquare’s application. Businesses that begin to leverage Location-Based Social Media in Lakeland, FL by adding it to their marketing mix will benefit from this entertaining and free tool. This, in turn will add to the current trends that are making Lakeland a “little Mecca of cool”.