Foursquare may only have 10 million users, (a small metric compared to Twitter or Facebook) but it is, for tourism in particular, a platform that should not be overlooked as a compelling way to profile your destination and convert prospective visitors into customers.
What is important to note is the increased interactivity Foursquare has built into their channel this year and the increased peer review function so that it offers much more than a simple check-in or Mayor badge for its mobile users. Have a look at this amazing map of check-ins around the world and you’ll quickly understand how Foursquare can be a compelling digital partner in your destination story.
What is key to this channel are the shared geo-located stories between the people who are experiencing your destination. Foursquare is positioning itself to be the enabler of individual concierge services around the world. In other words, your visitor is creating itineraries about your location and making recommendations on what to eat, what to see, where to stay, and linking these experiences together as suggested ‘to do’s’ when in the area. Foursquare’s algorithm ensures that the most popular places and tips rise to the top of their ‘explore’ search feature which means if you have lots of check-ins, comments, likes, to-do lists and status updates you are more likely to be engaged with and rise to the top of travel search results on this channel.
Foursquare has smartly integrated their platform with other social media channels including Twitter, Facebook, Soundtracking, Flickr, Tumblr and more so visitors can let people know what they are doing in your destination and geo-locate their experience in the present moment across multiple platforms. For example, I might check-in at your hotel and broadcast this to my Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter saying, ‘favourite urban hotel in Calgary, just love the staff here.’ If you are monitoring your social media, you could respond to your visitor and say ‘thanks, we are thrilled to have you for a return visit with us!’
When you create a brand page for your business be sure to build a complete profile by filling out all the details of your location and if you have several locations, Foursquare allows you to manage them all under one brand page. You can manage your brand page from your desktop but the user experience will most likely happen on people’s mobile as they explore your destination though you will also be able to be found in Google searches as well from desktops and tablets.
Here are some specific ways you can add value for your visitor or guest experience and ensure you are creating an engaging profile that encourages conversation and conversion for your business:
Updating your Fourquare is just like updating your Twitter or Facebook channels but the important difference is that the visitor that is seeing your update on their mobile is just outside your door! That’s right. Just outside your door. Foursquare locates your visitor on a map then offers them suggestions of businesses and places in the area. Just imagine if a visitor is searching for a whale-watching tour and your competition has just posted a fun update with a picture from a tour that morning and included a special offering of a 10% discount if they checked-in versus your business that has no updates or specials to offer. Which would the visitor choose? Updating your Foursquare is speaking directly to the visitor or guest who is already in your destination. Think of the wonderful opportunity to engage with them! Also, with your Update you can push it out to Facebook or Twitter or both for added value on those channels. Read more about the awesomeness of updates on Foursquare.
The Foursquare dashboard is one of my favourite’s of all social media channels because it is easy for small businesses to use and understand and offers up metrics you can actually utilize in real-time. Unlike Facebook Insights which can ignite a grinding headache trying to understand, the layout and simplicity of Foursquare’s business dashboard is a delight to behold. Wouldn’t it be nice if all analytics were this easy? If, for instance, you have hundreds of check-ins but no ‘likes’ on your Foursquare page, I would recommend you look at who your visitor is and create more compelling content for them. Looking at your dashboard you can see the demographics and behaviours of your visitors so it makes it easy to create engaging content that is relevant to your community. By using the update feature, creating specials more frequently with good value, and using the events and lists features all informed by your dashboard metrics, you will see an increase in conversions.
3. Foursquare Lists & Tips
If there are already tips and comments about your location out there, why not be pro-active and offer curated lists for your visitors that they can use when traveling or exploring in your destination? Be the expert about your own business! Act as a concierge by creating lists of unique things guests can do that integrate your service into the mix. For instance, if you were a DMO you could create lists of your hotel partners, your local parks, your museums, your fine dining, your theatres, your cultural attractions and so on and each list has a unique URL to share across other platforms. The Ritz-Carlton was one hospitality company that quickly figured out the concierge opportunity on Foursquare. When they started their global concierge campaign they only had 300 likes; they now have 9,000! You can encourage visitors to contribute to your lists as well by clicking on ‘let friends add venues too’. Visitors can follow your lists and you as a company can follow lists your visitors have created to further engage with their travel planning!
You’ll also notice on Ritz-Carlton page that they have left tips of things to do that are not about the hotel per se but do provide a service to visitors to the destination which in turn increases their profile and sends a positive message to travelers around the world about the brand. Even if you are a small business (a 2 person visitor centre for example), you can be the expert on your destination on Foursquare be leaving tips about things to do in your destination and creating lists that ‘only locals know’ which offers tremendous value to the visitor exploring your destination for the first time. It is worth investing in this channel even as a small business (perhaps more so) because Foursquare has a rating system that offers up a metric between 1-10 that is based on the overall experience of the visitors to your location and whether it was positive or negative. Clearly, you don’t want a low score! Here’s more information on their rating system and how it works within their Explore search feature.
4. Check in as your company and be a good digital neighbour!
Many users might not know this, but when you are out and about, you can check-in on Foursquare as your business and offer insights and tips about the places you are discovering. As a tourism expert, how potent are your insights into local attractions and restaurants? Very potent–your insights and tips are influential and profile you as a professional tourism service. It also demonstrates you are engaging positively with your destination and provides an opportunity for you to further curate the experience for a visitor who discovers you on Foursquare.
5. The Foursquare ‘Save To’ Foursquare and ‘Like’ Buttons
This is just so cool and one feature that is often overlooked for businesses using Foursquare. When travelers are online, perhaps planning their next trip, they can save things to do or see to their To-Do List on their Foursquare account. Wouldn’t it be great if they came upon your hotel and you had the Foursquare button they could click to easily save you to their To-Do list? Here’s how to install it on your site. This may require you to get some help as you need to ensure location meta-data is in place on your site but it is a quick task for your web designer to help you with. (I can help with this if you don’t have someone to assist you.)
You will also want to ensure, along with your other social media buttons like Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter, that you have also ‘Like’ button available to visitors. The more likes you have, the more chances you have of being discovered by their Explore search algorithm. Here’s how to set up your Like button. (If you are new to Foursquare you should know that they also send you a sharp looking Foursquare cling for your window encouraging customers to check-in at your location).
5. Reward Your Loyal Customers and Create Raving Fans
The key to any social media channel is to nurture your loyal customers and fans and ensure they are treated like royalty because they will, in turn, share the good word about you online! You can do this easily on Foursquare by creating Flash specials which speak to your regulars. For instance, on your dashboard you can see that you have a big rush in the morning between 8-10 am. Offer a Flash special to for the following morning of a free small coffee with any breakfast sandwich (if you are a coffee place) for the first 10 check-ins. Create a good quality Mayor special once a month, after all this is a devoted customer! Switch up your Mayor specials to encourage more people to check-in more regularly. You could also offer a Loyalty special for those regular customers by saying something like, ‘free appetizer for every 5th check-in’ type of thing. The key to making your regulars happy and igniting positive engagement on this channel is to cater to them with meaningful discounts, and unique offerings. For new customers, you can encourage them to check-in with the Newbie special. Read more about Foursquare specials here.
There are other bells and whistles to explore on this platform, and as you can see I have often linked to the Foursquare blog for information and would encourage you to visit it; it is a great resource and I would encourage you to start your research here before you get started with Foursquare. Once you do, remember, it is a commitment and needs to be managed like any other social media channel. I would highly recommend making at least two people managers of your business Foursquare account in order to cover off holidays, staff changes, and sick days. I will cover off how to deal with negative comments and reviews in another post but staying engaged and active on your brand page and delivering great customer service is the very best way to increase positive tips about business!
Below is a little video that encapsulates some of the positive ways Foursquare can be a destination partner in the social space. As always, if you have questions about this channel and how to optimize and integrate it into your tourism strategy, I would be happy to discuss it with you. Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me @magsedoyle or my new channel, @tourismstory!