How to Use Foursquare to Increase Foot Traffic

A lot has been said about how good social media is for increasing brand awareness, online revenue, connecting with customers and even for SEO now that social signals improve your search engine rankings. And, of course, all that is true but very little has been said on how it can help businesses with physical locations increase foot traffic in their stores.

For this location-based social media services are perfect and there is none better than Foursquare.


Foursquare describes itself as “a location-based mobile platform that makes cities easier to use and more interesting to explore. By “checking in” via a smartphone app or SMS, users share their location with friends while collecting points and virtual badges”.

More importantly for businesses, Foursquare goes on to say: “merchants and brands leverage the foursquare platform by utilizing a wide set of tools to obtain, engage, and retain customers and audiences”.

That’s a nice bit of blurb but it doesn’t tell you how you can make the most of it for your business. Here’s a little guide on how to do just that.

Foursquare Specials

This is the real value for businesses with stores. Foursquare offers the ability to create ‘specials’ – basically offers that you can give to people checking in to your venue, as Foursquare refers to places. But before you can go about that, there are some steps you have to take.

Firstly, your store or business needs to be on Foursquare. This is relatively simple to do. Once you’ve signed up, do a search for your business. If it’s there, you’re oon your way. If it’s not, you can create it by checking in to it yourself. You’ll be given the option of adding the place as you do. That’s it, your venue is now there.

Secondly you need to claim your venue. This is not as easy as it might sound. There’s a verification process that, at least in my experience, is not too reliable. In the States you can simply request a phone call to verify your claim to the venue. In the UK you have to rely on being sent a verification code though the post.

When trying to claim a venue on behalf of one of my clients I requested this code be sent no less than eight times in two months and it never showed up. In the end, I had to submit a ticket to Foursquare’s helpdesk explaining the problem and to be fair to them, I had my claim verified within 24 hours that way. Worth doing if you find you’re waiting too long.

Once claimed though, Foursquare is a joy to use. Log in to the website, search for your venue and you’ll immediately see an ‘Edit Venue’ link, from which you can tweak various details and the like. Make sure you include as much information as you can and you’re all set.

At the top of the screen you’ll see a ‘Manager Tools’ link. It’s from here you can see your venue’s stats, who has checked in and, importantly, set up your ‘specials’. Click the green ‘Start a Campaign’ button near the top right and choose the venue for yours special. You’ll be presented with this screen:


You have several options for your specials:

  • Swarm Special – create an offer for when a lot of people checking in at the same time
  • Friends Special – create an offer for when a small group checks in
  • Flash Special – create an offer for the first X number of people checking in at a certain time
  • Newbie Special – create an offer for people checking in at your venue for the first time
  • Check In Special – create an offer for anyone checking in

These are geared towards gaining new customers via check ins. To retain existing customers and reward loyalty you have these options:

  • Loyalty Special – create an offer for people who check in a certain number of times
  • Mayor Special – create an offer for the person who is Mayor of your venue (the Mayor is basically the person who has checked in the most times over a certain period of time – you can see who that is from your venue page)

Once you’ve chosen your special you can then decide when it gets unlocked and how many times per day it can be claimed. For example, if you choose the Swarm Special, you can state how many people need to be checked in for the offer to become valid and, of course, how many claims can be made.

The next step is to create a description of the offer. Let’s say you run a restaurant and decided the special unlocked after 20 people checked in. Your description might read “Get any side order free with your order when 20 or more people check in!”. You’re limited on characters here, so be succinct!

Finally, you can add optional details such as the fine print and a more detailed description should they be required. As you create your special there’sa handy little graphic on the right that shows you how your special will look on a smartphone.

Now click create special and that’s it! People can see your special on their smartphones through the Foursquare app whenever they are near your venue. If they like the look of your offer they’ll call in and you’ve gained customers you would never have had otherwise!

The next step is to make even more people aware of your offer and this is where Facebook, Twitter and your own website come in to play. You can promote your special via the various social media channels you have available to you in addition to Foursquare itself.

Foursquare Brand Pages

In addition to claiming your venue and offering specials, Foursquare now offers you the ability to create a brand page for your business. This is very simple to do and you can verify your page by tying your Twitter account to it. No need to wait for a code through the post.

Fill out all your details, website links, branded banner and description and you’re ready to get started. With a branded page you can encourage people to ‘follow’ you on Foursquare as they would on Facebook. Search for venues near your business on Foursquare – for example, if you’re in Manchester then Old Trafford and the Etihad Stadium are obvious choices – and leave ‘tips’ there.

A tip at Old Trafford could read: “Watch Manchester United take on the rest of the Premier League at this magnificent stadium. And you’re not too far from [your business], check in with us and claim [your offer]!”

Foursquare users following your business and checking in near to Old Trafford will then see your tip ‘pop up’, increasing brand awareness and reminding them of your offer. They can then add the tip to their ‘To Do’ Lists too, creating a reminder of your business in their own profiles and increasing the likelihood they will pay a visit to your venue.

So there you have it. A relatively easy way you can use social media and Foursquare to drive foot traffic to your store, restaurant or other business venue.

  • Written by on 9th August 2011 at 15:30
  • “Fluid Creativity is an award-winning, multi-service digital agency based in Manchester.”
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