By Kim Palacios

Here’s the crazy thing about Foursquare.  You don’t necessarily need to opt in.  This GPS-based app relies on users to allow their phones to record their location, estimating where they are, and broadcasting their whereabouts to their social networks.  So, what does this mean for you, the business owner?  It means that, whether you are invested in this technology or not, your customers might be broadcasting to their friends that they are spending time at your location.

Consider Beefing Up Your Foursquare Game If:

  • You want to get your business on the map.  If your business is underrecognized, it behooves you to register your location on Foursquare so that it comes up in neighborhood search when people nearby are looking for something to do.  Depending on what type of business you have, Foursquare can be a free, easy way to gain recognition, reward frequent visitors, and offer up special deals.
  • You have a physical location that people want to be associated with.  Most people won’t want to broadcast that they’re at the grocery store as much as they will want to boast that they have arrived at a trendy bar or restaurant.  If your business is one that people would want to brag about to their friends, Foursquare is for you.
  • Your customer base has critical mass of smartphone users.  If this doesn’t describe your customers, all bets are off.  Foursquare does have text capabilities, but we think that, for most people, this is more trouble than the app is worth.  The best features show up on the Smartphone apps only, and it is our recommendation that you plan on targeting this set of users.
  • Your customer demographic is insensitive to privacy issues.  The younger your customer base, the more open they will be to location-based apps.  Older users—even tech-savvy ones—approach location-based apps with suspicion.  Many people older than ~40 view the technology as “Big Brother”-ish, whereas younger people are less attuned to privacy issues.
  • You can bundle check-ins with a desirable bonus for customers.  Even if your customers would not normally be inclined to check in with Foursquare, if you offer them a deal, they just might.  Offering a coupon or discount for check-ins is a great way to get customers to promote your business to their friends.

Run Screaming From Foursquare If:

  • Your business is personal in nature.  Suppose you run a wart-removal business.  Most people won’t want others to know they are engaging in an activity that is considered too personal, or taboo. If your business line requires discretion or naturally lends itself to privacy, it may be inappropriate for Foursquare.

In some ways, Foursquare is the ideal app.  There’s no downside to using it and there is no real time commitment in maintaining your participation.  For certain businesses, however, a little more time can yield a lot better results if the audience and the nature of the business are right.