A few weeks ago, after I rode 63 miles, I was craving eggs like nobody’s business. So Mr. D and I set out to have brunch at Schuba’s, a little restaurant down the street.

It was 1:45 p.m. and, after sitting there for 10 minutes without service, the waitress finally came by and said they were turning the kitchen over so they couldn’t serve anything until 2:30.

Never mind the fact that the table next to us had just ordered lunch and were happily eating away while Pete the Tapeworm was eating my stomach. I get maybe the breakfast part of brunch would be over, but really? They couldn’t serve the lunch portion of their brunch menu?

So we walked across the street to Flat Top Grill, where I did not get eggs, but I did get their super delicious flat bread with my stir-fry.

Fast forward to this past Saturday when we decided to have Flat Top again. I pulled out my phone to check in to the location on Foursquare (I’m obsessed with becoming the Mayor at all of our local businesses) and lo and behold there was a notice that, if we ate at Schuba’s (and checked in), we’d get 15 percent off our food order.

This time it was 1:15 and we were sure to ask if we could get brunch before sitting down.

Foursquare is Changing

The point is, the use of Foursquare is changing.

A couple of years ago, when Foursquare launched, they were the king of location-based services. Started as a way to connect with friends while you were out and about, it’s had it’s share of problems.

A site (which has since been shut down by the government) called PleaseRobMe.com, posted a running tally of people who were checking in on Foursquare and tweeting their location. It showed a running tally of these tweets with the phrase, “Please rob me. I’m not at home.”

And, while the only real benefits you had to using the service were badges and beating your friends in points (I’m looking at you Mark Robins) or telling burglars you weren’t at home, Foursquare began to gain notoriety and use.

Until the New York Times recently indicated their reign is over. Not to be undone by one silly article, they announced an overhaul of the service by turning it into a recommendation platform.

Which is what I experienced on Saturday when I checked in to Flat Top Grill and got an alert from Schuba’s that I should go there instead.

Foursquare Uses for Marketers

Now, with their 180 degree change in direction, we have an opportunity to use the service to recommend people drop by our locations or our client’s businesses.

Here’s how:

  1. Ask for check-ins. A client of ours has a check-in sign at his cubicle. Not only does he want you checking in, you have to do so with a photo. Clearly you’re not getting anything by doing that (except his love), but it goes to show how you can suggest people check-in to your location. Put the sign in your windows or at the register. Ask them to check in.
  2. Tie check-ins to rewards. Just like Schuba’s did by offering us a 15 percent discount, you can do the same. Offer a free drink, a free app, a discount, or a free product. Our local dog store gives doggie bakery treats for checking in to their location.
  3. Encourage tips. When I checked in to the Detroit airport last week, a tip from my friend Bryan Willmert came up (it said to stand to the right on the moving walkways if you weren’t going to walk – amen, Bryan, amen). When you encourage people to leave tips and their friends see that, they’re more inclined to visit the same place.
  4. Use time of day to your advantage. If you know the bank across the street is particularly busy at lunchtime and after work, use that to encourage people to drop by your location while they’re running their errands. That’s what Schuba’s did when Foursquare saw I was across the street. They offered me 15 percent off to change my restaurant choice (otherwise I’d never have gone back because of my initial experience).
  5. Work with other local businesses. Instead of stealing business from your competition, why not work with the other companies surrounding your location? If I check in to Julius Meinl (the best coffee shop on earth), they could recommend I walk across the street and get a cupcake at Southport Grocery.

Clearly location-based recommendations are not for everyone. But if you have a location – no matter what you sell – it’s something worth exploring.

How do you recommend businesses use the changing Foursquare?

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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