Location based check-in type services are this year’s overhyped topic – with good reason. While you may not understand why someone wants to be the mayor of their barber shop, you do need to recognize the behavior that social location services such as Gowalla, Foursquare, Yelp! and Facebook Places represents for the local business.
Shoppers these days are using the Internet to find everything locally and increasingly using mobile devices, services and apps to effectively bypass even the web to find a merchant. What that means is that local small businesses need to find ways to tap into the behavior and not necessarily try to ride the hype wave to Foursquare fame.
Below are five ways the local small businesses can capture their own personalized version of social location behavior and tap what may be the ultimate online to offline combo to produce sales.
Create virtual rewards programs – Rewards programs such as those offered by most coffee shop via punch cards or large retailers like Eddy Bauer have been around for years, but smart offerings by folks like PlacePop are making the punch card concept an easy virtual or online play. Merchants can offer their own version of a check in and capture rich data on their most loyal customers.
Ride the group buying craze – If you’re not familiar with group coupon buying services like Groupon, then you’re probably not reading this blog. Facebook app maker WildFire offers small businesses the ability to create their own group buying offers and take advantage of the viral and social nature of this play to create local Facebook engagement.
Google Places coupons – When local shoppers do turn to a search engine for local shopping they often uncover your Google Places Page (or at least you should be working to make sure they do) Google has a handy coupon tool that automatically creates mobile versions of your coupons and offer. Here’s more information on Google Places Mobile Coupons
Advertise on mobile coupon networks – You can also place your ads on Mobile coupon networks and get distribution of your coupons across many local sites.
Make your own game – The game playing aspect of many of social location biggies is an aspect that should not be overlooked when trying to develop your own strategy. The web app SCVNGR is a tool that allows you to create your own game and have it related to verified checkins for a specific QR code. This would be pretty cool for a merchant association to use to create their scavenger hunt check in game.
And, of course, make sure your business is listed with the major players – Foursquare, Gowalla, and Facebook Places.