How to Set Up a Local Business on Foursquare

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If you work in social media or if you own a small business with a physical location, you’ve probably already heard of Foursquare. It’s the location-based check-in service with 33 million users and 1.3 million registered businesses that launched the term ‘gamification’ into the English language.

With Foursquare, location-based businesses of any size can encourage customers to visit them and to share their location with others, either by offering specific rewards (Wetherspoons offered a 20% discount on all food) or in return for valuable points, badges and mayorships.

Here are six top tips that will help you make the most of Foursquare.

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1 – Claim your venue(s)

The first step is to claim your business so that you can make changes, add specials and more. You’re probably already on Foursquare, thanks to their crowd-sourced data and extensive list of partners who share their information with the company. First, though, you’ll need to create a personal account through the app or on their website.

Now that you’re a registered user, you’ll need to search for your business on the website, head over to the right-hand side of the page and click ‘claim here’. You’ll be prompted to accept their terms of use and to confirm your phone number – don’t worry, this is purely for security purposes. You’ll receive an automated call – follow the instructions, and you’ll be ready to verify your ownership. You can do this in two ways – either by post, through a postcard that you’ll receive to the business’ address, or online, which will be faster but will require a one-off payment of $1.

2 – Fill out your profile information

To manage your location (and to carry out the rest of the steps that are mentioned), you’ll need to log in to the website, hover over your username in the top-right corner and click on the name of your business in the drop-down menu.

To fill out your profile information, click ‘tools’ on the bar along the top, and enter whatever information you want to include. Your options include:

  • Business name
  • Display picture
  • Brief description
  • Twitter username
  • Facebook username
  • Street address
  • Telephone number
  • Opening hours
  • Upcoming events
  • Categories

On top of this, you can also add other managers, so that the joy of managing the location isn’t yours alone. Perfect for a socially-savvy management team.

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3 – Add some specials

Specials are offers that are redeemable only to Foursquare users, and they’re extremely useful for attracting new customers and rewarding your regulars. To add a special, click ‘specials’ on the navigation bar at the top of the site. Here are your options, along with some examples:


 Swarm Special: If 20 people check in at once, they’ll all receive a free drink

Friends Special: Bring a friend and you’ll both get half price dessert

Flash Special: The first five people to check-in after 6 PM get 10% off

Newbie Special: Get a free hot drink on your first check-in

Check-in Special: Receive 5% off your bill on every check-in


Loyalty Special: Get a free snack on every fifth check-in

Mayor Special: The venue’s mayor gets 20% off their bill

When you set these offers, you’ll also be prompted to add terms and conditions and availability, to make sure that your business is covered. For a customer to redeem their special, they simply need to check-in and then to show their smartphone to a member of staff.

4 – Post an Update

Much like they can on Facebook, your customers are able to ‘like’ your location to opt-in to posts that your company makes. To take advantage of this generosity, be sure to post frequent updates to your page to give people a reason to join you.

To post an update, click ‘updates’ in the navigation bar, and get ready to shout about your business. You’ll be prompted to ‘let your patrons know about upcoming events or a great special you’re running’, and you can do so by posting either a text-based update or by attaching a photo. You can even attach a special to the individual update, if you’d like. If you’ve connected your location with a Facebook or a Twitter account, you can also share straight to those social networks from your Foursquare page.

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5 – Optimise your physical location

Of course, how are your customers going to know that you’re on Foursquare if you don’t shout about it? Sure, people will discover you while they’re on the go through the mobile app, but you can encourage existing customers to join you as well. When you claim your venue, Foursquare sends you some window clings that prompt people to check-in – make sure that you display them prominently.

Also, be sure to give your customer-facing staff a crash course in Foursquare, and to tell them about the offers that you’ve posted. There’s nothing worse than checking into a location, claiming a special and then discovering that the waitress has no idea what you’re talking about. Learning to recognise a valid special takes five minutes at most, so be sure to train your staff appropriately.

6 – Check your analytics

What’s the point of setting all of this up if you can’t measure your results? Well, that’s where Foursquare’s analytics come in handy – log in to the main site and click ‘dashboard’ in the navigation menu to be taken to your analytics overview. Here you’ll be able to learn exactly how people are interacting with your business, with insights including (but not limited to):

  • Number of total check-ins
  • Number of unique customers
  • Number of people who’ve liked your venue
  • Number of people who’ve liked your updates
  • Number of check-ins shared to Facebook/Twitter
  • Behavioural insights

If you set up your billing system correctly, you can also assign a value to your Foursquare efforts by looking at the number of customers who have claimed a special when paying for their bill, and by totalling the net profit that you’ve made from them.

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Foursquare, like Yelp, Google Places and a Facebook Page, is a necessity for all businesses with a physical location, whether it’s a local convenience store or a chain with hundreds of locations across the country.

The question is: How do you intend to capitalise upon Foursquare’s popularity to promote your own business? Let me know with a comment.

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