14 Jul 2011

6 Successful Foursquare Marketing Campaigns to Learn From

There are now more than 500,000 businesses on Foursquare. We’ve already shared with you how to start marketing on Foursquare and how to set up a special — now we’re giving you a handful of campaigns that can inspire your own marketing initiatives.

Read on and take a tip from The History Channel, Starwood Hotels, Pepsi Max, a Florida eye doctor, a New York steakhouse and a German billboard.

1. Be On-Brand — History Channel

The History Channel Foursquare page launched in April 2010. A History channel rep says the network was already very active on Facebook and Twitter, so the marketing team wanted to open the brand up to a new platform — Foursquare — in order to “deepen [the] social engagement with the network’s viewers.”

Since The History Channel is not a physical location, it has a brand page that can be “followed.” When users check in to sites like the Highline in NYC or the Tower of London, a tip from The History Channel pops up, explaining some tidbit or fun fact about the background of the site. The tips are informative conversation starters — fun little nuggets to consume. And while it may not get people watching The History Channel, it makes history — its bread and butter — accessible and fun. This is a win, since many brands are on social media in order to be more accessible to consumers.

Success Metrics: The History Channel Foursquare page has 202,450 followers. While The History Channel doesn’t share numbers regarding how many people have unlocked the badge, here are some numbers derived from various History Channel tips:

Lesson: While The History Channel can’t directly tie the success of the Foursquare campaign to a spike in ratings, the brand has been successful in getting people excited about history and fun facts.

2. Reward Loyalty With Loyalty Points — Starwood Preferred Guest

In May, Starwood Hotels teamed up with Foursquare for its SPG — Starwood Preferred Guest — loyalty program. Once a guest links his SPG and Foursquare accounts, he can earn 250 Starpoints when he checks in to a Starwood hotel with a confirmed reservation.

“There’s a strong loyalty connection for our guests, so we’re using social media and tools in an interesting way and bringing value to the guests and deepening our relationships with them,” says Alyssa Waxenberg, senior director of emerging platforms at Starwood Hotels, which comprises nine hotel brands, including W Hotels, Sheraton, Westin and the St. Regis.

So far, hotel guests are happy with the promotion. “250 Starpoints is quite high for reward points,” says Abbey Reider, associate director for global search marketing and social media strategy at Starwood. “It’s great because rather than trying to reward with a discount or something related to our food and beverage outlets, we give back something that is truly meaningful and that the guests care about.” To put it in perspective, a night at a Starwood hotel can “cost” 3,000 or more Starpoints.

The other benefit is that the rewards have the same value all over the world and everything is taken care of on the back end, so there’s no staff training necessary. The same campaign runs at all 1,051 Starwood hotels, and there’s no need to worry about currency value, since a point is a point, no matter the country.

Reider says that though Foursquare is perceived as a very American phenomenon, that SPG has seen high levels of engagement in China — second in checkin volume only to the United States. “We’ve been pleasantly surprised to see that global Foursquare usage is very strong,” she says.

Plus, through July 31, each mobile checkin enters a user into a contest for a resort getaway, including five free resort nights and airfare. Since Starpoints already have such a high perceived value to guests, the potential to earn more points and to win a vacation means people are happy to go through the steps of linking their Foursquare and SPG accounts.

“Foursquare makes it very easy for our hotels to try things and put campaigns into market,” says Waxenberg. “We don’t need to think about operational things.”

Success Metrics: Since the campaign’s launch in May, SPG has “given away” nearly 10 million points.

Lesson: Your loyal customers are probably excited about earning loyalty points with your brand. Consider using Foursquare to offer more loyalty points — the business doesn’t lose any actual money, but they do gain an excited consumer who will likely come back again and again.

3. Target Influencers — Pepsi Max

Each March, digital natives descend upon Austin, Texas for SXSW Interactive. Naturally, they check in to bars, restaurants, events and food trucks. This year, if users followed Big Boi on Foursquare and checked in throughout Austin, they could unlock the Golden Ticket badge, which pops up after checking in, just like any other badge. The Golden Ticket earned users a spot at a Big Boi concert during SXSW.

For those not in Austin or unlock the badge, the concert was livestreamed on UStream and a Facebook tab on the Pepsi Max page. Pepsi Max then posted a photo collage filled with pics that were posted on Instagram and Foursquare during the concert.

Success Metrics: The Golden Ticket was unlocked by 2,400 SXSW-goers, who filled the concert venue to capacity. There were more than 2,000 Foursquare checkins at the Big Boi concert, and Pepsi Max had more buzz than any other brand sponsor of SXSW.

Lesson: While not every brand has pockets deep enough to finance a partnership with Foursquare itself, it’s wise to target digital influencers, who are likely to share unique experiences — like winning a Golden Ticket — to their social networks.

4. Offer Specials on the Unexpected — Bright Eyes Family Vision Care

Typically, you see Foursquare promotions at bars, restaurants and other venues. But one Florida eye doctor makes use of the platform to benefit his medical practice. Nathan Bonilla-Warford says he’s been a fan of Foursquare since before it even launched in Tampa — he even founded Foursquare Day. He decided to make use of Foursquare both as a consumer and as a merchant, even though his business is somewhat nontraditional for the location-based service.

“I think the fact that we’re not a bar or a restaurant is part of what’s so compelling, because people think it’s interesting,” says Bonilla-Warford. “It’s different, it’s surprising.” What’s especially surprising is what he offers as a reward for checkins: a locally-made hot sauce. He says he likes to keep things interesting.

“It’s such a left-field kind of reward that it catches people’s eyes — they smile and think its funny,” says Bonilla-Warford. “Then they go home and talk about it — I went to the eye doctor, and I got this hot sauce!’”

While hot sauce is the current reward, Bonilla-Warford has dabbled in more, well, relevant offerings. For Foursquare Day, he has offered 50% off a pair of glasses and a buy-one, get-one-free deal. For special occasions, he says, it’s a fun promotion, but Warford-Bonilla couldn’t afford to offer those promos all the time. He promotes the Foursquare campaigns in blog posts and emails, and there’s a door cling.

Success Metrics: While Foursquare users are “definitely not a giant percentage of the people who we see in the office,” Bonilla-Warford says it gives his practice another way to interact with that community, and the tech-oriented people appreciate the gesture. He keeps the promotion going because he loves Foursquare, and the few customers who are Foursquare users appreciate it. Plus, it has made Bonilla-Warford somewhat of a celebrity.

Lesson: Most people associate Foursquare specials with retail and restaurants, but businesses of any type can reap the benefits of the platform. Since many people push their Foursquare checkins to Twitter and Facebook, having a presence on Foursquare makes for great word-of-mouth buzz.

5. Give Away Something Small — Angelo & Maxie’s

Last fall, New York steakhouse Angelo and Maxie’s wanted to do a giveaway and increase revenue while running the campaign. The restaurant brought Florida-based social media firm Socially Buzz on board to implement the campaign. For 45 days from October to November, the business ran a Foursquare special — buy an entree and get a free dessert.

“We did some research and found that pretty much every customer who orders a meal usually orders dessert,” says Andre Kay, founder of Socially Buzz.

While Angelo and Maxie’s ran campaigns on Foursquare and Facebook Places and also had a coupon landing page on the web, Kay says Foursquare comprised 90% of the campaign, and thus contributes most of the success to Foursquare.

Success Metrics: During the 45-day long campaign in October and November, there were 400 Foursquare checkins, meaning there were 400 entrees purchased. Of those, 60% of the Foursquare users were checking in to Angelo and Maxie’s for the first time. The campaign boosted revenues by 18% during the 45-day period, and it was then extended for another 30 days.

Lesson: You don’t have to give away a meal — a free dessert just may be the cherry on top that will lure customers back time and again. Plus, once customers come to the restaurant, they may splurge and order appetizers and wine since dessert is free, which will boost revenues even more.

6. Utilize the API — GranataPet

A small German pet food company got clever in March, using the Foursquare API and the principle of Pavlov’s conditioning. GranataPet installed 10 billboards in Munich and Berlin, and when a user checked in to the billboard on Foursquare, it “dispensed” dog food into a dog bowl on the ground for four-legged friends. How does it work? Checkins are noted on a distant server that is connected to a black box within the billboard that controls the dispenser — when the server registers a checkin, it dispenses a sample of food. Sounds tricky, but each billboard costs just 350 Euro to install, says Dominik Heinrich, innovation director at Die Zietspringer, a division of Agenta that created the campaign.

Thanks to classic conditioning, the dogs became the target consumer and would pull their owners back to the billboard day after day in order to get the free food. The campaign was inexpensive and clever, and it empowered the dogs to have a say in what they eat.

Success Metrics: The 10 billboards averaged 118 checkins each on the first day, and Heinrich says Munich pet stores sold 28% more GranataPet during and 10 days after the campaign than prior to it. Because of the campaign’s success, GranataPet will install 100 billboards by the end of the year, with five in each of 20 cities. Sales of GranataPet are 14% higher than they were last year, and pet store requests to carry the product are 38% higher.

Lesson: A little innovation goes a long way. Plus, a quirky campaign like this has a tendency to go viral, which spreads awareness of your brand even farther.

This article first appeared on Mashable and was written by Lauren Drell