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Social Media 101 for Restaurants

Part 3: Foursquare puts your business on the map

In this third installment of our social media series, I’m not just suggesting you claim your business on Foursquare, I’m urging you to embrace location-based marketing. And Foursquare makes it easy for you!

There are two major reasons you need to head to Foursquare today. Here's the first: if you’re an established restaurant, a Foursquare user has probably already created a listing for you. You want to make sure the information he or she entered about you is accurate and represents your brand image well—and that the address listed is sending new customers to the right location. You also want to monitor and listen to what your customers are saying about you. Foursquare offers some great tools to get feedback, promote your business, and reward your frequent customers.

Foursquare is a location-based smartphone app that allows its users to broadcast their real-time location to friends via “check-ins.” Users can also interact inside the app and redeem promotions offered only on Foursquare. It's oriented toward mobile devices, but if you don't have a smartphone or tablet, you can still use your computer to check out your Foursquare profile online. If a user created it, Foursquare will give you the opportunity to claim it as yours. Then you can download the Foursquare for Business app to your own mobile device for quick and easy maintenance of your restaurant’s page.

Foursquare is a worldwide community; as of September 2013, it's 40 million people strong. Users open the Foursquare app while they're inside your establishment and check in. Then they can take advantage of the easy sharing tools to let their friends on Twitter or Facebook know where they’re dining. They can post photos to your restaurant’s Foursquare page from their visit, “like” or dislike you, write “tips” to future visitors (such as what's good on the menu), and unlock special deals you can set up to attract new customers and reward the ones that already love you. Your guests can rack up dozens of virtual badges depending on the types of businesses they visit and the frequency of their check-ins.

Foursquare users like the app because it allows them to declare loyalty to businesses they frequent. It doesn't hurt, either, that they can cultivate a sense of pride over their ever-growing badge collection. However, Foursquare becomes a truly invaluable resource when users are traveling in a new town. The “Explore” tab inside the app lets them search for restaurants in a certain area, or restaurants that locals recommend. This feature is also helpful when users are at home trying to decide where to go based on current specials or discounts. A good-looking, informative Foursquare page will drive traffic to your door!

Building your restaurant’s Foursquare page content

Each individual location you own will have a separate Foursquare listing according to its address. Once you claim your listing(s), here are some important pieces of information you will want to include on your page(s):

  • Relevant profile photo and additional photos of your place and food

  • Short description of your restaurant

  • Address (with directions), phone number, and website

  • Links to your other social media pages

  • Hours of operation

  • Payment options

  • Search-friendly menu (users can search by food item to find restaurants serving whatever it is they’re in the mood for)

  • Whether you offer outdoor seating or free wi-fi (or any other services or features your patrons might factor into their dining decision)

  • Regular updates (much like Facebook status updates) that share news or create buzz

Types of popular Foursquare specials

Foursquare makes it easy to set up specials for your customers. What’s great is that you can include your own stipulations or restrictions as needed (e.g., free coffee with the purchase of any dessert; free appetizer when you check in with a party of 4 or more; 20 percent off a total bill of $100 or more; a free “swag bag” after checking in three times). Note, you can offer different specials at each of your different locations.

  1. Check-in Special: For anyone who checks in at your restaurant

  2. Newbie Special: For the very first time a Foursquare user checks into your place

  3. Mayor Special: For the current “mayor” of your business—the person who has made the highest number of public check-ins to your location over the past 60 days

  4. Loyalty Special: For check-ins made at any level of frequency you choose

  5. Friends Special: For a group of customers who check in to your restaurant at the same time

  6. Swarm Special: For every customer who checks in during a certain time period only after your restaurant has registered a certain number of check-ins during that same window (e.g., a free beer when 50 people check in to the bar between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. could boost your after-dinner sales)

  7. Flash Special: For a limited number of Foursquare-using guests (e.g., the first 10 check-ins) on a certain day or during a certain time period

How AJ Bombers increased sales by 110 percent using Foursquare

A couple of years ago when Foursquare was still new, AJ Bombers, a Milwaukee bar and restaurant famous for their burgers, was an early adopter of location-based marketing. They’ve been written about in many Foursquare case studies, and owner Joe Sorge even helped pen a free eBook to detail the restaurant’s Foursquare success. In this book, he discusses the restaurant’s first Foursquare event held in February 2010, which benefitted a local charity. It garnered enough support to successfully unlock the Swarm Special for customers, and the restaurant reported a 110 percent sales increase for that day alone. In April 2010, AJ Bombers did it again, this time working directly with Foursquare staff to create unique, one-off badges that customers wanted to earn. While this won't be possible for every restaurant, it did give an extra boost to the lunch day part's bottom line. The term “flash mob” has been used to describe the masses of community members who came out to support AJ Bombers’ Foursquare events. Imagine what your community could do for you!

Today, the AJ Bombers location on Water Street in Milwaukee has nearly 1,200 photos on its Foursquare page, all posted by Foursquare users. Customers have written 361 tips raving about the peanut butter burger, the buffalo rolls, and the smoke-free environment. (A personal observation: “tips” on Foursquare tend to be positive and helpful albeit short, unlike other sites known for quite detailed—and often negative—reviews.) AJ Bombers is currently offering one special at their Milwaukee location and two specials at their Madison location.

Their Foursquare marketing campaigns helped put AJ Bombers on the map, and they’ve since been featured on The Travel Channel’s “Food Wars” in addition to many blogs.

Integrating Foursquare with everything else you do

Recently, I came across a handy 2013 guide to marketing on Foursquare. Here are some of the core points, along with a few of my own ideas, that I think you’ll find helpful to your restaurant’s marketing plan:

  • Promote your Foursquare presence. Mention it on your other social networks. Link to Foursquare by adding buttons to your website. Foursquare even offers a downloadable window cling sign for your doors to encourage check-ins.

  • Use your existing marketing efforts to advertise your Foursquare specials. Advertising them in traditional media helps, as well.

  • Sign up for Foursquare yourself. Go explore other pages. See what types of specials your competitors are offering. Experience for yourself how a user engages with the platform. You’ll better understand the community if you are one of its members.

  • Consider promoting your updates within Foursquare. Or try their new self-serve advertising center to get the most exposure possible. You only have to pay when someone acts on your ad, so it’s pretty low risk.

  • Create check-in opportunities when your restaurant participates in local community events. A good opportunity would be when you have a food truck or a booth at a festival.

  • Co-promote with other nearby businesses. You can leave neighborhood tips or even offer specials when guests check in to more than one local business during the same day.

  • Create lists on Foursquare. Users will appreciate and remember you if you highlight the best things to do in your neck of the woods.

  • Train your staff to remind patrons to check in on Foursquare. Make sure they know how to reward the specials when someone does check in.

  • Be personable. Show off your brand’s personality in the language you use and the specials you create.

  • Read through the tips customers are leaving. It’s a great source of customer feedback for marketing purposes. You also have the opportunity to respond to tips if you choose.

  • Get motivated to update other location-based directories. Take the time to listen to customers on Yelp and on TripAdvisor, too.

By being prepared and active on Foursquare, you won’t miss the fantastic opportunity to pull in customers at the moment they're looking for a bite to eat.

The opinions of contributors are their own. Publication of their writing does not imply endorsement by FSR magazine or Journalistic Inc.