Foursquare Marketing: Tools for Brands Looking to Tap in to Check-ins

foursquare-check-in-hereFresh off the heels of #4SqDay 2012, Foursquare is riding high on talk of ad units being rolled out to their recently-announced user base of 20 million people. Add to that the fact they they’ve got more than 750,000 businesses using their platform already, and it’s easy to see that they’ve clearly won out in the great location-based networking battle.

So, what do marketers do if they’re not already using the platform? Likewise, how can those using Foursquare take things to the next level?

First, marketers need to realize that Foursquare for business is essentially split into two paths:

  • Those with physical locations where users can shop, eat, play, whatever.
  • Those without locations (usually large brands).

Now, that’s not to say there isn’t crossover, but Foursquare has built out different paths to make it easy for marketers and business owners to find the information that’s best for them.

Foursquare, as a platform, is built around businesses. While their tools center on brands with physical locations, they have a wealth of tools available to help brands and businesses tap into the Foursquare community and engage with their audiences.

Foursquare Tools for Brands

Brands on Foursquare have a ton of assets at their disposal – mostly for free. Here is a rundown of the different ways Foursquare plays well with brands:


Pages act in much the same way as a Facebook Page might. Pages act as the brand’s hub on Foursquare and contain simple “about” information as well as links to other social properties and websites.

Pages also act as a space where brands can promote badges associated with their pages.

Save to Foursquare Button

Brands that publish via blog or to their site may benefit from the “save to Foursquare” button which lets users easily follow suggestions from the brand and receive notifications when they’re near a suggested location.

Generating the code for the “save to Foursquare” button is incredibly easy. For more information, click here.

Follow Button

Much like the Facebook “Like” button or the Twitter “Follow” button, the Foursquare Follow button is meant to give users easy access to following your brand page on Foursquare.

To create a follow button, you must first have a Brand Page. Once you have that set up, visit this page to create a follow button.

Partner Badges

foursquare-partner-badgesBadges are a big driver on Foursquare. Users compete with their friends to earn badges that signify achievements on the platform. Partner Badges are created by brands and reward users for taking part in brand-sponsored activities on the platform.

Partner badges are currently the only offering for brands with a fee attached ($20,000 per month, per badge) and must be approved by Foursquare.

Foursquare has a set of criteria they look at when deciding on new Partner Badges:

  • Ubiquity of unlock locations: People should be able to unlock the badge in as many locales as possible; ideally across the US, or, better yet, global. A city-specific promotion is less than ideal.
  • Offer some reward or unique redemption opportunity: So people feel excited to unlock it.

API Platform

Foursquare doesn’t really dabble in a lot of “flashy” things on top of their tool. They leave that to developers and brands. Hence, Foursquare has a pretty great API that lets more than 10,000 developers build, play, and create on top of their existing infrastructure. Devs can get more info here.

Foursquare Tools for Merchants

While there are definitely large brands working on the merchant platform due to their having physical locations, the merchant platform was developed by Foursquare to give small business owners a chance to interact with their customers through the platform – for free.

Claiming a Venue

Chances are there’s already a venue created for most businesses in Foursquare (unless it’s just opened), so the most important thing for business owners to do is jump on and claim their venue. This is a pretty simple process that involves actually making sure you have the right to claim the venue. More info here.


Specials are the driving force behind Foursquare for merchants. Specials can be created to reward single check-ins or, even better, can reward repeat visits by giving people a discount, free item, or special treatment based on hitting a level of check-ins. At this point, Foursquare becomes a sort of digital loyalty program and can definitely create more-engaged customers.


Foursquare’s most-valuable asset is truly their data. Merchants who have claimed their locations have access to a full-fledged dashboard that gives them insights into not only numbers, but demographic information on the people who are checking in to their stores

What’s Next?

While badges have really been the only form of paid brand participation for quite some time, Foursquare is launching a paid ad that will surface specials from brands when users are looking for nearby specials.

Also, look for Foursquare to hone in on the delivery of specials to influencers based not only on location, but on time as well as other demographic information as the move toward a convergence of social, local, and mobile continues.

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