Before I traded in my Blackberry Curve in for a Samsung Galaxy S3 I didn’t really get Foursquare. Well that’s all changed…

I didn’t really see what the fuss about earning  few badges was, but once you start, it’s really hard to stop. Foursquare is based on a concept of Gamification – the use of game-thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts in order to engage users and solve problems. Although Foursquare doesn’t really solve problems (unless you count finding a restaurant nearby), it brings an element of fun to what would ordinarily be just another place you visit in your day-to-day life; like going to a shop, petrol station, or shopping centre.

Foursquare for BusinessI just don’t get check-in’s

Like many of my clients, I never fully understood why earning a badge or checking in was ‘all that’. But when was the last time you were out in public and didn’t see someone with their phone out, messaging, accessing an app, or surfing the web? It’s a rare sight these days as people are increasingly using their mobile devices to find anything; anytime and anywhere.

With every Facebook, WhatsApp, or Blackberry status update or app download, the Average Joe who used to be super concerned about letting people know they weren’t home, and where they actually were, is becoming more comfortable about sharing their own location.

People don’t just give things away for free – even if it’s their location, and even if you don’t really want to know anyway. Consumers check in, earn badges, and share their locations all in the attempt to get something for free – be it more relevant data, special offers, discounts, or coupons.

So going back to the question – “Why is Foursquare all that?” – the answer is that this shift in consumer mindsets presents exciting opportunities for brands to tap into the power of location-based marketing, using customers’ real-world behaviors and locations to reach them when (and where) it’s most relevant.

But where in the world do you start? 

Foursquare check-inAs with any social media platform, there are a number of ways and tactics to go about implementing a successful strategy. Here are three simple, easy-to-implement ideas that businesses have been using to promote their products or services on Foursquare:

Race for Mayor – users of Foursquare can hold the distinct honor of becoming the Mayor of your establishment based on how often they check in at your location. To provide extra incentives for customers to seek the position of Mayor, a business can offer specials including free merchandise, gift cards, or exclusive discounts to whoever is crowned mayor.

Monthly Foursquare Events – through your Foursquare account, your brand can offer exclusive deals or events that are only available to Foursquare users. Not only can this increase the interest in a business, it can also help encourage people to learn more about Foursquare itself, thereby growing your potential audience.

Customer Incentives – there are many simple but effective marketing campaigns you can provide to your customers through Foursquare that offer incentives for checking-in that can be promoted through other social media applications such as Facebook.

Since Foursquare is a great way to make direct contact with your target audience, it’s worth the time to learn more about the many ways it can be used to market your products or services. Consistency and active participation are the two most important ingredients in a successful Foursquare marketing strategy for any size business.

Foursquare success stories

Here are 12 case studies, thanks to SocialFresh, of brands taking BIG steps on Foursquare. These success stories might inspire your next steps on Foursquare…

Foursquare recommendation1. Starbucks Offers Nationwide Mayor Special – Starbucks extends local store mayor specials to all its stores with a single $1 frappuccino coupon for any Starbucks mayor at any Starbucks.
Why it’s unique: First national mayor special.

2. BART San Francisco Transportition – BART, the Bay Area Rapid Transit offered “a BART-themed badge that can be unlocked by regular riders of BART, which provides train service in the San Francisco Bay Area. BART awarded $25 promotional tickets each month for the next 3 months to riders chosen at random from all the riders who have logged Foursquare check-ins at BART stations, starting in November, 2009.” The goal of the promotion was to embrace Foursquare use on BART already and to further encourage use of public transit.
Why it’s unique: First transit agency to actively use Foursquare.

3. Bravo TV Markets Shows and Personalities – Bravo offered Foursquare user “badges and special prizes when viewers visit more than 500 Bravo locations. The locations will be picked by Bravo to correspond with select Bravo shows including The Real Housewives, The Millionaire Matchmaker, Top Chef, Kell on Earth, Top Chef Masters and Shear Genius.
Why it’s unique: Extending the relationship with a TV show and characters.

4. Metro News Canada – Metro, Canada’s number one free daily, added “their location-specific editorial content to the Foursquare service. People who choose to follow Metro on Foursquare will then receive alerts when they’re close to one of those locations. For example, someone close to a restaurant that Metro has reviewed would receive a “tip” about that restaurant and the have ability to link through to the full Metro review on
Why it’s unique: First editorial content integration by media outlet.

5. The History Channel Sprinkles Historical Facts All Over – The History Channel created tips on Foursquare that share historically significant facts with users when they check into a location of note, for instance the first building that bought an Otis elevator.
Why it’s unique: Providing brand and location-relevant content to promote the launch of a new television series.

6. Eat Free at Golden Coral – The Foursquare mayor can eat free once per day. Check-ins on other location services give you a chance to eat free as well as a chance to win an iPad as part of a larger contest than the daily eat free special.
Why it’s unique: Facebook support of effort, multiple platforms are available, larger contest and prize.

Foursquare badges7. Hubspot’s Virtual Check In at SXSW – At SXSW 2010, Hubspot didn’t have an exhibitor booth, but they did set up a check-in spot at the SXSW convention center and added tips for folks to check out their Foursquare Grader and Speaker Grader tools.
Why it’s unique: Virtual presence at a conference.

8. College Basketball T-shirt Giveaway – UNC Charlotte, the first college/university to implement a location-based social network special on campus, offered free t-shirts to students that checked in at certain basketball games and other events.
Why it’s unique: Retail giveaway to encourage fans.

9. Harvard Fully Embraces Location – Harvard encouraged students to rate campus venues, share tips, and work to earn the Harvard Yard badge by checking in to a certain numbers of locations. They also left tips at locations on and off campus for students and visitors alike to explore.
Why it’s unique: First University to offer a badge, encourage ratings, and leave tips.

10. Coach Men’s Store Cologne Giveaway – For the opening weekend of their Men’s Store in NYC, Coach gave away free cologne ($85 value) to the first 200 customers who checked into the store on Foursquare. 10% of the traffic to the store that weekend came with Foursquare check-ins. Causation or correlation is tough to say, but it looks like the promotion helped drive awareness and buzz for Coach’s first Men’s store launch.
Why it’s unique: Valuable promotion to help drive awareness and buzz to Coach’s first Men’s store opening

11. The Today Show – Foursquare users who headed to 30 Rock in the summer for the Toyota Concert Series on Today were able to check in, earn badges, and compete for mayorships… The Today Show also had three custom badges that visitors could earn: the Newbie badge for first check-ins, a “Roker” badge for three check-ins, and a “10 to 10″ badge for those that checked in at the Plaza concert series 10 times or more.
Why it’s unique: First national TV endorsement of Foursquare.

12. AJ Bombers “I’m on a Boat” Badge Party – Local restaurant owner tapped into Foursquare users passionate about their badge earning and created events based around earning some of the more difficult ones, the Swarm Badge (50+ people) and the I’m on a Boat badge. He saw some great increased sales numbers and got some great free exposure.
Why it’s unique: Creating unique events around the activity of check-ins.

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