How Foursquare Leverages the Power of Network Influence to Create Loyal Customers

When I first signed up for FourSquare, I didn’t really know how I could leverage it for PR. I got on there to try it because that’s what PR people do when we hear about new social media tools.

I got on Foursquare and started finding people to follow, but at the time there weren’t very many people in my DC Twitter circle on it so the pickings were slim. Luckily, Peter Corbett was on Foursquare, so I followed him and watched his check-ins around the city. There was one that caught my attention, and kept keeping my attention : Chinatown Coffee Company.

I am a coffee snob. So I thought to myself: How in the world was there a coffee place in the city (and apparently right down the street from my house) that was serving divine espresso, that I didn’t know about?! At the time Peter was the mayor of Chinatown Coffee, and thanks to Foursquare, I was able to get the exact address of the place, so one day when I was nearby I stopped in to try it out.

Can you say love at first sight? Done deal. Everything I have ever wanted in my neighborhood coffee shop, my needs all met in one fell swoop. Now, if you know me, you know that for me to say this is major. Let me break this down: minimalist, industrial decor. Locally-sourced dairy. Hawthorne bakery pastries (they always have banana nut muffins, even in summer). Limited seating for an intimate feel. Michele’s granola. Lattes and cappuccinos so perfectly sweet, they don’t even need sugar. A church pew as seating. Customers on MacBooks. Baristas you can talk to about stuff besides coffee.

Just to tell you about the quality of the people this place attracts, once after leaving a PRSA event, Deborah Brody and I went to CC to talk and have coffee, and after leaving we saw Jessica Yellin, a CNN Congressional correspondent jump out of a taxi and head in to grab her java to go. At the time, I was planning PoliTwitch, so I ran back in to talk to Ms. Yellin about possibly getting someone from CNN on the panel. She ended up helping me get Mark Preston, CNN’s political director to speak. And it all started in a round about way with Foursquare.

I say all of this to say, had I not been on Foursquare I may have stumbled across Chinatown Coffee on my own. But because Peter Corbett was the Mayor, it immediately had an endorsement by someone whose taste I trust. And I’m not talking taste in coffee. While that is important, Peter is a busy creative business person so anywhere he chooses to spend any of his precious free time (even if it’s to drop in to grab a cup of coffee) holds a tremendous bit of weight with me.

Think of this as network influence. You may not know of the best place to grab a bottle of wine, but if someone you trust who has great taste in wine endorses an establishment by going there repeatedly and saying how great the wine was, that’s probably where you’re going to go. And if you’re the owner of a wine shop, your job is to find those influencers–the people who know wine, love wine and are always talking about wine–and make sure they are coming to your wine shop, tasting your finest wine, and perhaps getting free bottles of wine. Maybe you need to throw a little private wine tasting just for your wine influencers just so they can check in on Foursquare and put you on the proverbial Foursquare map.

So if your business is NOT on Foursquare, you need to get on there. Because your customers are watching where their friends are checking in. And sometimes, your customers may randomly search for a place to eat or something to do by doing a random “places” search to see what’s nearby. If you don’t pop up, they can’t consider you. And you might be RIGHT under their noses. Just like Chinatown Coffee was  right down the street from my house, but it didn’t exist for me until I saw it Foursquare.

If you need help getting on Foursquare, finding influencers, connecting with influencers, setting up rewards programs or further leveraging Foursquare for your business, let’s talk.

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