As an MBA student or grad, you’re probably tracking the latest developments when it comes to Internet marketing and social media. If so, you may be familiar with Foursquare, a social media platform that is quickly gaining popularity.
Founded in 2007, the location-based platform allows its users to check-in at various locations to not only alert their friends and family where they are at but also to earn badges that give them access to free perks from participating merchants.
The uses of [Foursquare] can extend beyond the education environment to help connect you with new clients, fellow MBAs, renew old relationships and give back to the community.
The application of Foursquare makes immediate sense for certain merchants, like restaurants, bars and coffee shops — places that consumers already are accustomed to going to on a regular basis and sharing reviews with friends. If you work in an industry outside of food or hospitality, you may not immediately see the connection between your work and Foursquare.
Before you dismiss Foursquare, take a moment to see the ways other MBAs are applying the application to their personal and business lives and are seeing real results.
If you’re not sold on Foursquare, take a moment to hear what Harvard University has to say about the platform. According to the Harvard Gazette, the Ivy League giant was actually the first university in the U.S. to utilize the social network to help its students succeed.
Consider these words of wisdom, given to the Harvard Gazette during a 2010 interview:
“Harvard is more than classrooms and buildings. It is an interconnected community of people, ideas, and experiences, and we are actively pursuing ways to enhance those connections,” said Perry Hewitt, director of digital communications and communications services for Harvard Public Affairs and Communications. “We believe that Harvard’s participation will allow our community to engage with friends, professors, and colleagues in new ways.”
While Harvard utilizes Foursquare to help acquaint students and visitors with the campus and nearby establishments, the uses of the platform can extend beyond the education environment to help connect you with new clients, fellow MBAs, renew old relationships and give back to the community.
Help your business
Businesses are finding numerous ways to utilize Foursquare as a free marketing tool. The social media tool is free for business to use, making the incentives the only costs associated with the platform.
According to PCWorld.com, Six Flags Entertainment has truly embraced Foursquare, “going nuts with the idea” by offering a wide range of badges its visitors can earn. Included are becoming the “Mayor” of each Six Flags park (the person who checks in at the location the most times during the month becomes a Foursquare Mayor of that location), earning a “Six Flags Funatic Badge” and the “Exit Pass.” By earning the badges, users are able to cut in line for rides. And the Mayors earn a free pass for the entire year (2011). As you can imagine, these incentives go a long way in encouraging increased park attendance throughout the amusement park season.
Here are some additional ways that an MBA like you can pair their business knowledge with Foursquare to see some real results in their business:
- Study what other businesses are doing and apply them to your industry. Just like you did case studies throughout your MBA program, you can continue this practice to find the best uses of the latest technologies. Create a Foursquare account and start looking at the various businesses in your area. What types of incentives are they offering their customers to check in via Foursquare? Don’t just look at those who offer similar products and services as you. Expand into other industries and apply their uses to your products.
- Encourage people to become Mayor of your business. As cheesy at the title may sound, the competition is creating a real motivator for many individuals. Even if consumers discontinue their use of Foursquare, they will have created habits that will continue well into the future. To entice people to check into your location, offer a freebie for the person who becomes Mayor. Make sure it’s an incentive that they will be able to continue to use for the month so that it has real appeal.
- Partner with other businesses to create a scavenger hunt. Call up some of your fellow alumni and create a Foursquare challenge. Get the word out to your customers’ letting them know that once they have checked into all of the locations on Foursquare, they will be privy to discounts or incentives at each of the locations.
- Don’t forget to reward first-time visitors, repeat visitors and those who bring friends. Even if they haven’t visited your establishment a huge number of times, you want to give them a small incentive to show them you appreciate their business. This will give them a taste of the fun that is Foursquare and encourage them to strive toward the coveted Mayor title.
Help your networking
Foursquare not only is helping professionals enhance their business but it is also providing them with networking opportunities. As shared by Drew Meyers, director of marketing for Virtual Results, an Internet and social marketing company that works in the real estate industry, with the help of Foursquare, he has been able to establish and rekindle professional and personal relationships during his business travels.
According to Meyers, by simply integrating his Foursquare, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, people who he hadn’t connected with for quite some time have been able to follow his travels and see when he is in their area. This has resulted in unexpected emails giving recommendations on restaurants and providing him an opportunity to reconnect with those individuals.
Here are some tactics you may want to consider to reach out to fellow MBAs from your alma matter so you can create a strong network in your region and throughout the U.S.:
- Meet up with others while on the road. Look to see who else you know has checked in at the different cities that you visit. Contact them and ask to meet up to try out a new restaurant. This provides you with a non-awkward way to reconnect.
- Take advantage of Foursquare at conferences. As reported by PCWorld, many conferences now put conference communications on Foursquare. You’ll also be able to locate other colleagues who are attending the conference so you can make a connection with them.
Help your community
Earning your MBA provided you with skills to improve your workplace. But it also provided skills that you can implement to help give back to your community. Many businesses are utilizing Foursquare to encourage their customers to join them in donating money and products to non-profits in their community.
You can encourage your customers by partnering with a local non-profit that you support. The organization could be connected to your industry in some way or could just be one that you already have a strong personal attachment.
Post on Foursquare that each time a user checks in at your location, your company will make a donation to the non-profit. Or, you could encourage your customers to donate money or needed items at your business; if they make the donation, they receive a discount or other incentive at your business.
To get the biggest reach out of this effort, provide users additional incentives when they get their friends involved in the outreach.