Saying that the internet is a big place is among the greatest understatements anyone can make. In our modern web-centric age, everyone is connected to each other and industries appear to grow overnight. Regardless of the service or product a business may offer, there’s always going to be a number of other organizations out there getting in a company’s way. When Google or Bing searches for an industry term bring back page after page of results of competitors, it’s clearly time to begin reexamining your online marketing strategy.

These days, being in constant contact with your customer base is absolutely vital. Although increasingly more businesses are seeking out SEO companies and web developers to design sleeker, more Google-friendly websites, many companies fail to make enough of an impact in the social media market. Yes, nearly every organization has a Facebook page and several even have Google+ profiles as well, but there are still other venues through which a company can find and secure a loyal audience. Chief among these is Foursquare.

Checking In and Cashing Out

Smartphone users are becoming increasingly familiar with Foursquare. What once started as a rather innocuous mobile network app that logs travel activity, the Foursquare community has grown to a user base that now numbers in the tens of millions. While the level of activity seen on the network varies greatly from person to person, a large chunk of this audience is dedicated to using its mobile app daily and “checking in” wherever they go. Users can choose to share photos taken at said locations, leave reviews about the quality of the establishment, or make various recommendations on how to get the best service possible.

Although the feedback a company receives through Foursquare is generally kept within the mobile app and browser-based interfaces, the network is slowly making its debut on search result pages. According to a recent story from Marketing Land, Bing’s social sidebar now includes updates from Foursquare in addition to other social media posts. For the time being, this functionality is found exclusively in Bing, but there is a chance for this data to also appear in Google and other search engines in the future.

Even though Foursquare may not have the mass appeal and total exposure that bigger social networks have, that doesn’t mean that business owners should ignore it. Simply by putting up signs or posters in your workplace that remind people to “check in” at your business, you increase the odds of raising your company’s brand recognition among the mobile user base. Since those people who befriend one another on Foursquare are constantly notified of their friends’ activity, businesses benefit by having their company’s name be seen by an increasingly diverse crowd of would-be customers. All it takes a bit of initiative in reminding clientele  and employees that you’re listed on the network.

For additional tips and advice on how to use Foursquare to improve your company profile, I can be contacted at jwersits@webimax.com.

As social media websites become the focal point of countless internet advertising firms, so too have small business owners come to depend on social networks for their ongoing marketing campaigns. While Facebook is the primary social website for many companies these days, the fact is that there is no shortage of social media sites to pick from when trying to improve a company’s conversion rates and traffic. Although social media companies often ignore many sites when campaigning, the options available to businesses advertising on social networks are rather robust.

Over the next few days, I’ll be looking at the half dozen or so websites that most social media advertisers call home. Many small business owners tend to ignore the vast array of networks they could be marketing through and instead rely on Facebook as their sole avenue of social campaigning. Experienced SEO agencies realize that each site has its own unique properties that allow businesses to capitalize on their company’s strengths. By choosing to focus one’s efforts on a social network that offers features that are worth using, a small business owner can bring in far more clientele than otherwise.

In today’s blog post, I’ll be putting the spotlight on those social networks that bring customers directly to a company’s doorstop. While they may not be as active as the bigger networks around today, geographically-focused social media sharing sites are an excellent asset to any small to medium-sized business.

Foursquare: The Little Meta Game that Could (and Does)
The most well-known of these social networks is, of course, Foursquare. Over the course of the last several years, Foursquare has become the most prevalent social media sharing site for “check-in” activity. Structured as a friendly competition between other users, the site is accessible through free apps available on every smartphone digital market out there. Getting involved with the network is as easy as having your business get listed online.

Many companies benefit from Foursquare through having an active listing full of comments and constant check-ins from users. For best results, you will want to have ongoing contests and promotions accessible only to network users. For example, a coffeehouse owner can offer a free drink for every five check-ins or a discount for regular visitors. The more active a Foursquare business account is, the better the chance that users will share their activity on Facebook or other networks. This allows businesses to appear in social media user feeds and gain additional exposure with little to no effort.

Pinwheel: The Up-and-Comer
Pinwheel is an interesting network. Similar in function to Foursquare, it allows its users to share their travel activity to friends and family in a few quick steps. The big difference between it and Foursquare lies with how users are able to add non-business locations to a map and pin images across it. As of right now, Pinwheel is in beta phase and as such users will have to sign up for a mailing list in order to get into it.

Business owners may be asking why they should bother with Pinwheel. Well, for one thing, getting into the network’s beta means getting in on the ground floor. A business established on Pinwheel now will have a considerable advantage over those companies that try to jump on the bandwagon once the site goes live. Pinwheel promises to offer many of the popular features that Foursquare provides to its users, so businesses that use the network will have plenty of tools to work with.

Facebook’s Check-In Feature: Well-Integrated, but Less Reliable
Companies already involved with Facebook may have seen its users check in at various locations from time to time. It’s true that site users can post their activity and mention a business as well as tag others, but the function isn’t as active on Facebook as it is on social media networks dedicated to that function (a la Foursquare). On the plus side, Facebook actively tracks the metrics for a business’ check-in rates and analytics are available for that information at any time.

Small business owners who focus most of their efforts on Facebook should definitely look into encouraging their followers to check in when visiting their company’s locations. Check-in activity can help keep a company’s name in user feeds consistently throughout both workdays and holidays.

Thus concludes the first installment in my three-part series on selecting the right social media site for business campaigns. For additional information, I advise readers to check out our resources on social media company services or to contact me at jwersits@webimax.com.

When it comes to social media and SEO, I’ve discussed two major players so far: Twitter and the up-and-coming Pinterest. Here is yet one more: Foursquare. This is primarily a mobile app for smartphones, but it can be so much more for businesses that know how to utilize it for promotional and marketing activity. Foursquare trades on the currency of fun, but the app and social media tool can produce tangibly profitable results if businesses use it in just the right way.

In fact, this blog post was inspired by a recent article by Mashable on a promotional collaboration between Foursquare and the popular Viacom cable channel VH1, which was one of the earliest brands to join the Foursquare community. The two have released a “Save the Music” Badge that users who follow VH1 can earn if they check into any music venue in the country. For the first 35,000 users who unlock the badge, $1 will be donated to the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, which provides money to schools to revitalize their music education programs.

From this particular venture, VH1 is clearly not making money; but, it is generating a large amount of user participation, and garnering loads of attention from both people who use Foursquare and those who don’t. This attention will help build strongly upon a positive brand presence for VH1 in the social media sphere, and will prove beneficial to promotions it may run in the future that will bring in money.

It is in fact the opportunity to hold special sales and promotions on Foursquare that makes the mobile app so valuable to all businesses. The Foursquare audience is largely young, fun-loving, and – most importantly – eager to spend, especially when they are presented something in an appealing way, which happens easily through Foursquare. Businesses that are quick to realize this can successfully set up the right social media marketing campaigns to engage these users – and bring them into their stores, restaurants, and other venues.

To best illustrate this, I can only make use of some local examples. When I check into the Cherry Hill Mall’s Macy’s on Foursquare, I often receive a discount of 20% on any purchase. When I check into a nearby Raymour & Flanigan Furniture store on Foursquare, I can get a 10% discount on my entire purchase of non-sale items. Several restaurants in Philadelphia offer the ability to take $5 off an order of $5 or more if you check into them via Foursquare. Speaking of restaurants, checking into the Chili’s Grill & Bar located close to the Webimax offices rewards Foursquare users with a free order of chips and salsa.

Such tantalizing discounts and promotions have proven incredibly useful in getting people to engage with – and spend time and money at – many businesses. If you are running a business and are looking for that extra edge, it may be worth your time to consider how Foursquare can help enhance your SEO marketing and promotion strategy.