Don't Underestimate Location-Based Services and Check-In Deals

When you're charged with keeping colleagues and clients in the know in the ever-evolving world of social media, participating in a slew of social networks is par for the course. You have to try pretty much everything to be effective and determine its value for your clients, which is no easy task.

When it comes to location-based social networks, I've been using Foursquare for a long time, and Facebook Places more recently, after ending a long-term relationship with my BlackBerry and starting a new one with an iPhone back in April. But for the amount of time I've been checking-in to the many locations I frequent, using Foursquare, I've rarely had the opportunity to use any deals. Most times it was because the locations where I checked in did not offer any deals or they offered them based on loyalty.

A restaurant for instance may offer a free appetizer to the mayor (someone who visits frequently) or a free drink to someone who has checked in numerous times in the past. That's based on loyalty. But the real opportunity, in my opinion is the first-time visitor.

When I checked in to Buffaloe Lanes in Cary, NC a few days ago, I unlocked a special on Foursquare. It was buy one game, get another free. But guess what? My oldest daughter had a reward card she won at school for good behavior that allows her one free game per day all summer. So, when I combined her offer with the Foursquare offer, both my children got in free and the cost for that game was $3.20.

Now, from my point of view, you can't beat that kind of deal with a stick!

All I had to do was show my phone to the cashier. She seemed pleased that I'd noticed and was happy to ring in the discount. Being the curious type I went over to Facebook Places and saw that they were offering the same deal there. Easy, and smart.

Now, for you naysayers out there, or those of you who see no point in using "yet another social network" or fail to see the significance of communicating with the people who are actually visiting your establishment, maybe you'll find this significant:

According to comScore, nearly one in five smartphone owners access check-in services via their mobile device. The report, which was released in May,  indicated that 16.7 million U.S. mobile subscribers used location-based “check-in” services on their phones in March 2011, representing 7.1 percent of the entire mobile population.

I'm sure that it's easy to look at those numbers and write-off location-based social networks. But I strongly encourage you not to focus on the 7.1 percent and embrace the 16.7 million instead. People are checking in to your establishments with their smartphones, and if you aren't taking advantage of that, you're making a big mistake.

So call it a game, if you see it that way. But it's a game worth playing, and remember...if you don't play, you can't win!