A couple of weeks ago we launched retailer Borders Australia on Foursquare, starting with simple campaign which gives customers a 10% discount every time they check in three times. If the last sentence has got you rushing down to Borders to ‘check-in’ and bag a mayorship then good for you, you’re riding the crest of the wave. If you are wondering what on earth I’m on about then clearly you’re yet to become addicted to location-based social network Foursquare. I’m not going to go into what it does here, instead I urge you to check it out. I’m going to assume you already know what it is and what it does, and instead now tell you how you can use it to change your business.

One: Reward your most frequent customers

This is at the heart of what’s great for businesses on Foursquare. By registering yourself as the ‘owner’ of the business you can get a great, simple set of analytics which tell you who are your most loyal customers, who’s your mayor (most check-ins in last 60 days) and soon to come, how many people have unlocked your offers. In this way Foursquare can act as a sort of surrogate loyalty scheme, allowing you give freebies to your mayors or tailor specific offers to most loyal customers. This is an area Foursquare are still developing tools for and as they add more stats the possibilities for this gets very exciting.

Two: Get amazing (and honest) customer feedback

As well as being invited to check-in, customers can also leave tips about your business and comments on anything they like, from service to décor. Once, getting honest feedback about what you were doing was pretty tricky, now it’s there for all to see. This can become an invaluable way of discover issues in your business and indeed responding to them. By acting on comments quickly and effectively you’ll get much better customer loyalty than being ignorant to problems completely. And how about rewarding staff that perform so well it results in a positive comment? It could become a whole new part of your incentive structure.

Three: Increase the viral ‘mindshare’ of your business

Every time someone checks in at your business their other Foursquare friends are notified by a push notification, putting your brand in people’s pockets even if they’ve never checked in themselves. So a user with 50 friends will message 50 people every time they check in. Do this with 50 users and that’s a fair bit of pretty broad local area marketing, all for free.

Four: Promote special offers to passers by

This is obviously the most obvious ‘tool’ at businesses disposal when using Foursquare. Whenever a user checks into any venue Foursquare flags if there is a special nearby, and allows the user to view it and see where it is. By offering specials that are linked to check-ins or badges, businesses can reward loyalty and encourage interaction with their brand. It’s a simple and quick way of getting involved in Foursquare but more importantly will drive footfall and revenue as users return to your business time and time again to unlock offers.

Five: Use tips to communicate more personally with customers

Tips can be used in some really creative ways to encourage user interaction with your brand or business. For example, the History channel recently partnered with Foursquare in the US to allow users to unlock secret ‘tips’ about certain locations whenever they checked into them. By unlocking enough tips they could gain the History Channel badge, all of which was part of a promotion for a series of programmes to be aired on the channel about US history. This sort of promotion can work on a small scale too, by offering tips about your own business or services which customers may not have known otherwise.

Six: Get ready for ‘Places’

Arguably one of the most important reasons for getting the hang of location-based services like Foursquare is to be ready for Facebook’s own geo-location service; ‘Places’, just released in the last few days. This takes the features of Foursquare, plus adds a few, and then integrates with the most popular website on the planet. With 150 million smartphones worldwide running the Facebook app already, the potential for this is absolutely huge and will almost guarantee that location services are around for a long, long time to come. Adding them to your marketing mix now will give you a huge advantage when everyone else starts to jump on this in a year’s time!