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Do SMEs want or need location apps like Foursquare?

While it is clear that locational based checkin services such as FourSquare are continuing to grow at phenomenal rates, adding 15,000 users a day they appear to be missing the mark on small to medium sized business. The issue is that most users and consumers aren’t willing to pay for these services so the checkin platforms need to ensure businesses starts paying to reach consumers by local advertising or via offering rewards for checkins.

Foursquare MayorSMEs need to understand that platforms like FourSquare are not the same as AdWords, so businesses cannot target a specific keywords like office cleaning brisbane that they could do easily with Bing or Google. I also want to make it clear that location based services do provide a lot more value for some business types but initially FourSquare seems to be of most interest initially to food franchise operations like Starbucks Coffee and retail clothing chains like Paul Frank.

Locational Reviews are public

The scary aspect to social media is that much of the reviews, comments and shouts are public so upsetting a consumer on FourSquare can spread quickly to their friends who checkin nearby or future customers. Platforms such as Yelp now allow businesses to respond to bad reviews but many checkin platforms have only just started the ability to claim your business listing. The problem is the platform is too new for businesses to know how to best respond to a bad tip or a negative “to do” added when FourSquare users checkin. There is a glimmer of hope as FourSquare users have started to self police the checkins and started to try and guilt trip future checkins to not checkin if a venue is closed or is a duplicate venue.

Social Engineering

SMEs need to start to examine social media rules and policies for their staff but also explore these covering contractors and temporary staff to ensure a checkin pattern is not formed where people can know when the premises is vacant and what time the manager arrives or departs each day. As FourSquare is built around game theory and rewards for checkins, staff going on sales calls and presentations to prospective clients have also know when they checkin, they might be sharing much more about the businesses commercial relationship than is necessary. The growing issue with the misuse or over-sharing of information via checkin platforms may leave business owners and staff open to social engineering based on what information they chose to share.

Social Engineering is broadly defined as: Art of manipulating persons in order to bypass security measures, possible through gaining privilege information using various social skills by lying or tricking.

You can see how easy it is to map your movements with platforms like Weeplaces show that its fairly easy for someone to visualise your Checkins with Facebook/Foursqaure and how easy it is to share locations where you have been. Social Engineering comes into place when requests are sent advising staff to authenticate their accounts with a similar platform with the promise of a gift or prize for everyone else you invite.

ReadWriteWeb best covered the topic as to why people choose to checkin

  1. Serendipity & Connection (meetups/socialise/network)
  2. For the Win (badges/points/discounts)
  3. Track personal history (expense tracking/meetings/travel journals)

So if you are wanting to use platforms like FourSquare or Facebook Places, you need to ensure that to get the most benefit that you are answering at least one of the reasons above.

[Next: How to leverage your physical location]

Physical Locations

If you are a petrol station with a physical location look to encourage meetups with car enthusiasts and local car clubs through reaching out via social media and traditional means such as in-store posters. If you are part of a larger chain explore with your state manager about offering FourSquare badges as part of a larger promotion. But any business can easily start to offer discounts for those who regularly visit and checkin to your store. Ensure your staff are aware of the promotion and ensure

Business Services

If you travel to client premises make sure you have privacy settings set high if you plan to checkin and often speak with the business owner to confirm they don’t mind if you checkin at their venue.  FourSquare can be used for internal purposes with the right privacy settings and can be an easy way to keep track of employees/contractors when they arrive or depart from a location and even provides an easy way to keep track of locations you must visit.  If you are the CEO of a company and are in the process heading to a meeting to discuss a takeover or merger of another company updating your location on FourSquare can be as obvious as tweeting about the meeting.

Social Checkins can offer benefits

Using FourSquare can be easier for businesses which have a set location such as a car servicing workshop who can by claiming their FourSquare listing start to offer clients benefits for checkins or being the venues mayor such as a discount on their clutch replacement costs.

I want to encourage business to use social media as it offers a whole new channel to market and promote with, but just have some policies and common sense in place when you are using it otherwise you might be featured on Please Rob Me. Over sharing doesn’t help your business in the long term and too many updates and announcements will turn away loyal fans and supporters, so pick a basic strategy and run with it for 3 months then review.

What do you think?

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David Iwanow

David Iwanow

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