With the launch of Facebook Places this week, it got me thinking about how businesses can really take advantage of this growing trend of users “checking in” at various locations. In the early days of this technology with Foursquare and Gowalla most of the emphasis was placed on the personal social use of the application for meeting up with friends and finding friends nearby. But the value in the application has always been centered on the business angle. For retailers, restaurants, and other consumer-driven businesses it’s always been about collecting customer info and offering rewards to frequent visitors. Businesses looking to attract and award clients to drive loyalty should consider these tools as part of their marketing mix.
In looking deeper into this technology there are some other creative business uses for it. For example, it’s also being used at conferences to encourage attendees to visit exhibitor booths. I’ve stumbled across a few examples of associations using this technique to drive traffic to sponsor and exhibitor booths. I’ve also seen a number of service-based businesses in the B2B sector using Foursquare to drive walk-ins to their offices, promising anything from free beer, to cool t-shirts, to discounts on services.
These check-in tools, particularly Facebook Places, provide interesting opportunities for local businesses to draw in new followers. With Facebook Places, businesses need to log-in and claim their “place” page and set-up a small profile with details like contact info, hours and a profile picture to see who’s checking in.
Of course, if you’re in Canada or the rest of the world, you’ll have to wait. Facebook Pages is only for US locations for now.