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Consider the Consequences Before Posting These

Foursquare is supposed to be a fun Social Media tool that can help a business to identify their most loyal customers and promote patronage. By ‘checking in’ using their smartphone with a GPS function, a Foursquare user let’s the business and the user’s friends know that they are there. If a user checks in at a business more often than everyone else he/she can become the ‘Mayor.’ That sounds like a great idea, but there is a dark side that could lead to Foursquare chasing customers away from a business. Here are four reasons why you may want to discourage Foursquare from being a part of your enterprise, especially if you have significant customer traffic.

Negative Comments
Foursquare encourages users to give ‘tips’ to other Foursquare users. I often see negative comments as a tip. At one Starbucks I noticed that the tip that shows up when I check-in states, “Don’t come here if you’re in a hurry” That tip was left on May 6, 2011. Negative comments will haunt your business for months. Not a great first impression for a first time customer.

Competition Between Your Customers
Foursquare pushes your customers into a competition for the prize of being the Mayor. Not all Foursquare users are rabid about becoming Mayor; however, competing customers can be good or bad for your business. Under normal circumstances the competition can lead to more customer visits by those who are trying to rack up more check-ins; however, if becoming Mayor is important to a user, too much Foursquare competition could make a regular customer become frustrated. There will only be one Mayor and if that user has a lock on the Mayorship, then other users may decide to go to a competing business or store where they have a better opportunity to become Mayor. 

Not All Check-ins Equal
In addition to competition, there is an issue with fairness of the Mayor selection. On the face of it the Mayor should be the customer with the most check-in days, but that is not exactly the way it works. I have 49 check-ins in the last 60 days at my favorite Starbucks but the user who is the Mayor only has 45 Check-ins. Why is that user the Mayor? Apparently some of my check-ins don’t count even though I have 32 days in a row of check-ins at this Starbucks and the Mayor was out of town for a week during that time. I am consistently listed as 3 days away from being Mayor. I contacted Foursquare for an explanation and other than an auto-reply that they received my request, there has been no response.

Rewarding Customer Loyalty Not The Primary Goal
Foursquare would seem to be a great method for identifying and rewarding your most loyal customers; however, Foursquare is, in large part, a game and rewards those who are the most competitive, not the most loyal. While most employees can quickly recognize their loyal customers, they may not be able to recognize who the Foursquare Mayor is for their business. This is especially true of businesses with a high volume of customers and/or with a drive-thru window. The Mayor may be the person who simply plays the game and has little interest in supporting your business. If your business offers a special to the Mayor or attempts to recognize Foursquare users in some way, it could be insulting to loyal customers who feel they have neglected for their support of your business.

While Social Media tools like Foursquare can be useful in a business environment, it is important to consider the limitations and risks of employing them into your customer service plan.