Location based services (or LBS) were discussed a lot at that conference on Monday. They were also a hot topic at my local wine bar. Should the new owner get his business onto Foursquare or Gowalla? And if so, which one? My free advice never scores me free drinks. However, I’m sure I’m building goodwill, so I’ll tell you what I told him.
If your business has a physical location, these online services motivate people to walk in. They also can spread the word about your business through the vast social media ether. But here’s what should really warm the small business person’s heart: they’re free to join, and pretty darn easy to use.
Here’s how they work (skip this paragraph if you already know this). Someone with a smart phone and the right app gets points whenever they check-in online into a business. When they check in, an update on their location (and any comments they choose to add) can go to their Facebook or Twitter feed for their friends to see. Customers get points that unlock badges based on where, when, and how often they check in. For example on Foursquare, the person who checks in at one location more than anyone else becomes the Mayor. The Mayor may get special discounts at the business — if the business so chooses — or just revel in the prestige. Discounts are not required to be given to LBS customers by participating businesses, but it does make the whole thing more effective.
Below are Aaron Strout’s five golden rules of LBS. He’s brilliant, and at Monday’s conference gave a presentation on the topic:
- Stake your claim (i.e. register your business) on multiple services. Don’t limit yourself to just one.
- Connect with the Mayors, Duchesses, Grand Poobahs, whatever of your business. These are your most frequent customers. Wouldn’t you like to know what they like about your store? What they’d like to see changed?
- Create a great offer to bring customers to your business. Great = something that’s simple, intuitive, and of obvious value, e.g. buy 1, get 1 free, or 10% off. But you don’t have to limit yourself to cash discounts. Imagine a restaurant that gave kitchen tours by the chef to that month’s Mayor? Or putting a photo of your best customer on your website?
- Don’t be afraid to play around with these apps. Test, learn from your successes (and mistakes), and build on what works.
- Operationalize! Get the word out and er, make sure your employees know the rules. Your employees are at your business more than your customers, in all liklihood — you don’t want them to become the Mayor.
And yes, I am going to be milking Monday’s Social Media and Marketing & Monitoring conference for blog posts all week.