I have been pondering the value of geosocial apps like FourSquare, Gowalla, Yelp and others for a while now. In fact, when FourSquare was first launched and everyone was updating their Twitter and Facebook feeds with their locations, I declared it the most annoying social app ever invented. Luckily, most people figure out that we really don’t care to know where you are at all times and have adjusted their settings.
For those that aren’t aware of geosocial apps, the concept is that you use your mobile phone to check in at local establishments to earn badges or points. The person who checks in the most, is named as the Mayor or other title, depending on the application. The value, other than a fun gaming competition, is still in question. I do admit that I check-in on FourSquare quite frequently and use Gowalla and WeReward when I have some spare time. This morning, however, I found myself wondering whether it’s worth the time I put into it and whether geosocial apps can actually hurt businesses.
On my way to my local bagel shop, where I am the Mayor, I decided to make a course adjustment and head for a competing bagel shop. Why? To be honest, because I’m not the mayor there, yet. You see, without any incentive to return to the first bagel shop where I’m the Mayor, the game incents me to go somewhere else. If the goal is to become the Mayor of as many places as possible, why would I keep going back to the place where I am already a Mayor, unless someone ousts me? In theory, the Mayor of a place is a customer who returns frequently and spreads the word about the place, so the game actually drives away one of their best customers.
How do businesses address this? In this situation, the first bagel shop has to do something to keep me coming back…which is the value I’m seeking out of geosocial apps. Businesses need to start recognizing that the geosocial conversation is occurring, whether they are participating or not. Reviews are being placed on Yelp, Mayors are being named on FourSquare, and trips are being planned on Gowalla. If the businesses aren’t paying attention, they’re missing out on a vocal segment of their customers that are sharing the experiences.
So…how would socially adept businesses address the fact that their Mayor was frequenting a competing establishment? Here are my 5 tips:
- Make sure your business is listed. If you’re not in the directory, add yourself.
- Join in the conversation. Devote the resources to have someone pay attention to geosocial apps and review sites. If your customers are taking the time to leave tips and comments, you should take the time to read them.
- Offer incentives. Your mayor and those frequenting your establishment would keep coming back if they were rewarded.
- Partner with the site to offer badges or items. New geosocial folks will be attracted to your business if they can earn something from the game.
- Tweet and Facebook. If your business doesn’t already have a Twitter account and Facebook page, get going…you’re behind the curve. Let people know when you’re running specials or promotions.
In the end, social media is all about providing value. Business owners can benefit from geosocial apps by getting frequent input from their customer base. The tradeoff, however, is that the business needs to give something back to those that visit frequently.