The check-in craze has hit a fever pitch. Three companies are in the octagon right now – Foursquare vs. Gowalla vs. Yelp checkins, plus the rumored but unreleased checkin functionality on Facebook – ahhhh, competition breeds forced choice – which one service should I use? A full comparo is a topic for someone else’s blog. Informal polling of my Twitter following tells me that Foursquare is on top, but that Gowalla is making inroads and had a huge presence at SXSW. I am using Foursquare because Michael Tomko made me sign up for it. I am not kidding – I would not have joined unless he browbeat me into doing so back in March. Thank you Michael! Since then I’ve been on a check-in bender, becoming the mayor of Pepose Vision Institute (I sure coulda used a discount, people!), the Saint Louis neighborhood The Hill, my Post Office, and Chimichanga’s Restaurant.
In my estimation, probably 85-90% of businesses have either not heard of Foursquare, or have no idea how it could help their business. I might be conservative when I say 90%. It’s still very new in the St. Louis area, and many established businesses will shrug this off as just “a game that young people are playing.”
Smart businesses that want to cater to the smartphone crowd will view Foursquare et. al. as a huge opportunity. Chances to interact with your customers include checkins and mayorships. These potential interactions can occur on a daily basis (!), and the rewards that a business might decide to bestow on its Foursquare “mayor” can engender real loyalty and generate excitement about your business. Foursquare can bring customers to your doorstep!
However, what happens when your employees start checking in at work? Clearly, a business’ employees will be on site way more than any customer ever could. In turn, it would not take an employee long to capture the mayorship of your business, with other employees following close behind. Your customers are frozen out. What should a business do? If you are a business with walk-in customers that spend money on-site (i.e. a restaurant), that mayorship needs to be held by a customer! And it needs to be fought over by your customers.
One option would be to prohibit employee checkins at work. That doesn’t sound like much fun. I have a better idea.
Using White Castles as an example (because they’re so tasty), either the employer or an employee would create an alternate checkin location for their employees called the “White Castle Employee Lounge.” Plug in the same street address, call it the Employee Lounge, and let the employees fight over that. Frankly, the business owner could even place rewards and incentives on that mayorship. Bingo, your business’ real Foursquare mayorship is ready to be fought over by paying customers!
And, if for some reason, Foursquare does not allow such duplicate locations, they should!