I can think of few better businesses than entertainment venues to take advantage of geolocation social services for attracting new or retaining loyal customers. FourSquare and Gowalla are the two most prominent social networks throwing geolocation into the mix and providing benefits for both registered users and venues.
These two down-loadable applications for mobile phones rely on the phone's GPS software to find a user's location and display a list of nearby businesses with surprising accuracy. In addition to your own venue, logged in users might see the restaurant next door, another nearby entertainment venue, or even individual spots within your own venue such as stages or bars. Users "check in" to your venue which in turn notifies the users' friends of their whereabouts.
Benefits for User & Venues
From a user perspective, both Foursquare's and Gowalla's real time location awareness creates opportunities for impromptu meet-ups among friends. In addition, the services employ "game mechanics" that award digital badges reminiscent of those earned from childhood scouting troops. Users earn special discounts offered by the venue, and they receive points for check ins. Users with the highest number of check ins are declared the venue's "mayor" and usually are awarded top discounts.
User check ins help raise awareness about your events and venue to friends. When they post photos or user tips, they help pique newcomer interest. The services give you as a venue owner reporting tools that allow you to see a list of all visitor check ins by name, date, time or even gender. Further, visitor lists include limited contact information enabling you to reach out with special offers to your top customers, and tools within the services give you the opportunity to provide promotional incentives for users to visit your business.
This low to no cost method of advertising is an excellent way to increase sales. Set your goals, then follow these steps to take advantage of a mobile and increasingly connected audience.
Claim Your Venue
Create a user account, and then create your venue. For Gowalla, you'll want to download the app to your phone, and from your venue's location, click the Add Spot icon. From Foursquare, you can add your venue from either the phone app or the website. To claim your venue, enter your business phone number. Each service will call to provide a unique verification code to finish the process.
Add Promotions & Incentives
Foursquare gives managers access to create venue specials--for free--that users see upon check in. Gowalla provides venue owners the ability to create their own badges and to add their venue to featured calendar pages, but both are paid services. Here are five promotional ideas to get you started.
- Check-in Specials
You can create special instant coupons that award visitors at periodic intervals ("Receive a free drink every 10th check in!"), or at specific times ("Get $3 off admission with your first check in.").
- Rewards for Mayors
Unless you've met a proud Mayor, you may not understand the fervency that Foursquare users will fight for the title. In addition to the title itself, most active venues award mayors with extra specials, tickets, and public recognition. The fight for mayor-ship gives venues an opportunity to offer fantastic awards that make the fight worthwhile. Consider VIP seating upgrades, 2-for-1 tickets, or other valuable offers.
- Wild-card Specials
These are short term and unexpected specials that can help shore up flagging sales or reward your best customers with hard to procure tickets.
- Loyal Patron Specials
Visit your venue pages on Foursquare and Gowalla to see a list of users who've checked into your venue. If you click on their name, you'll have access to limited contact information such as their Twitter account. Since many of the checked in users will also follow your venue on Twitter, you can Direct Message your top patrons with a single use coupon code created from your ThunderTix account for use on a future ticket purchase.
- Create a Trip
Gowalla "Trips" allow venue owners to create a compilation of venues (3 minimum) where users who visit all establishments in the trip can earn a custom badge. If you own multiple venues or partner with other local area restaurants, trips provide a way to boost attendance across all venues.
Getting the Word Out
In addition to your newly created accounts and added promotions, use your existing networks such as Facebook and Twitter to promote your event and check in promotions. Encourage your visitors to start a Gowalla or Foursquare account, check in, and post their whereabouts to Twitter and Facebook. Both services provide businesses with window decals prompting users to check in and cash in on any discounts.
Event Night Incentives
Add incentives such as discounts with proof of check in at the door. Or "listen" for Tweets and reward a winner chosen at random with a pair of tickets for another event. Users can also take concert pics from their phone and upload them garnering photo credits for themselves while letting others get a glimpse of what goes on within.
There are enough use cases to demonstrate the effectiveness of this new advertising and its ability to bring in new customers while rewarding your most loyal patrons. Track overall redemption of your offerings to help you meet your goals. At little or no cost, the timing for testing the waters of geolocation based social networks couldn't be better.