Location-based (also known as geolocation) services and social networking are the newest rage in relationship marketing. If you are a bricks and mortar business and you are not taking advantage of being registered on all of these geolocation social networking sites, you are missing out on a way to do three things essentially for free (less incentives you offer*):

1. Encourage traffic through offering visitors who check-in special deals.

2. Monitor location-based social networking traffic and reviews via site stats and individual members’ reviews/tips.

3. Reward loyalty by offering unique deals to individuals who frequent your establishment.

Location-based social networks allow users to “check-in” usually via a smart phone application. Depending on the site, visitors to your business can earn points and/or direct rewards, like a discount for checking in. They also provide reviews and tips to other members about your business (good parking spots, best time to shop, good menu items, etc.).

Foursquare is the most popular of the biggest three geolocation networking services. The pinnacle of being a Foursquare individual member is becoming Mayor of a location. Mayors are the individuals with the most check-ins at a specific location (your nearest Starbucks undoubtedly has a “mayor”). Mayors are generously courted with special deals* and individuals grapple to be the new mayor of popular establishments. As with the other two sites, members provide feedback and input about businesses they check in at.

Gowalla is similar to Foursquare’s location-based network with less emphasis on checking in the most (i.e. becoming Mayor) and more on attracting a larger number of unique visitors by offering deals that are more democratic. This Tech Crunch article gives you a clear idea on how this is done.

Yelp. Yelp came into the “check-in” system late, but now also offers this feature. It is really more of a review service for all types of businesses including restaurants, banks, gas stations, drugstores and more. You can also search special offers in the area you are in. Part of the brilliance of this is a business can check and then respond to poor reviews, thereby attempting to fix a customer service problem publicly.

Go to each of these sites and register your business. Offer a special. Test it and see how it works. No harm, no foul. Report back to our readers your results!

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by Steven Schlagel