INNOVATE: Put your hotel on the map with Foursquare

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Digital marketing consultant Carole Luck gives us the lowdown on FourSquare, the location-based social network that enables the public to share feedback on your hotel with an audience of 40 million users

The hospitality industry is fortunate with regard to online marketing. It lends itself to images, it’s a topic people want to know about and read about and it continues to be a growth industry for those delivering what people with spending power want.

Being so easily adaptable to online opportunities means that hoteliers have many choices to make and they need to be aware of all the places their customers and potential customers might find them online.

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With more than 40 million registered Foursquare users around the globe this location-based social network should not be ignored.

A year of Foursquare
This year appears to have been a bumpy one with investment sought early on, followed by reports of further talks about strategic investment with multiple large technology companies later in the summer. However, by August we were receiving reports that Foursquare was on track to beat its sales goals for the year through product innovation and fresh consumer engagement. So Foursquare seems to be sticking around and continuing to grow.

Foursquare launched in 2009 and if you visited Foursquare in its early days a return visit is recommended. “Check in” now and you’ll notice a number of changes which benefit both the Foursquare user and the “venue”.

A “list” feature has been added, a useful tool in Twitter, this has much more relevance and potential use within Foursquare for the hospitality and tourism industries due to the fact that it is a location-based app, for example hotels can create lists of nearby attractions to add value and relevance to their Foursquare presence.

The mobile and location-based nature of Foursquare means it has great and immediate potential to grow its market share in line with the general growth in mobile web access and search. The developers are responding to this opportunity by consistently enhancing the user experience on both iOS (for example Apple’s iPhone and iPad) and Android devices.

As with other social networks, the interest and increased usage has been among North Americans — a relevant target market for many boutique hoteliers, particularly those with properties in London and other tourist hot spots.

International hotel companies are noticing the new marketing channel Foursquare provides; Starwood’s loyalty programme SPGRewards started working with Foursquare in 2011 and in summer 2013 Starwood launched its first seasonal Foursquare promotion adding game-playing features to the partnership with targeted incentives like custom badges and various other rewards — adding fun and engagement to a regular loyalty device.


CHECK LIST:

• If you have not already “claimed your venue” check if you’re listed
• If you’ve been listed by a guest, then it’s time to “claim your venue” on Foursquare
• Use the business description to “sell” your property, this is like your Twitter “bio”
• Provide all relevant information, include links to your website and social-media profiles, menu descriptions and prices
• Listen to your guests’ “tips”, celebrate the good and address the recommendations
 


Foursquare and you
The big hotel players continue to take Foursquare seriously, so what does this mean for boutique hotels? As with all social media you need to be listening and to be aware of Foursquare’s presence in your locality.

If you have not already engaged with Foursquare your hotel may, nevertheless, already have been listed by one of your customers without you knowing. So the first piece of advice is visit Foursquare, sign up for the app on a mobile device and check if your “venue” has been listed. If it has then “claim your venue” — this can be done via a mobile or a desktop device.

Like all social-media marketing opportunities it is important to ensure that your property is represented well and that relevant information is provided for each app visitor — your current or, potentially, future guest.

Foursquare invites “venues” to add helpful information, this includes, for example, a business description, hours of operation, a link to your website and social-media profiles with links. You can also list your full menu as well as the different payment options you accept.

Like all other social networks the key is to listen to your guests and engage. As well as being able to “check in” to your property on Foursquare they may leave “tips” and as a venue owner you too can join the conversation. Tips about local attractions or shopping opportunities are obvious and helpful topics to cover.

Venue listing on Foursquare is free; there are paid-for options available to hoteliers which might help restaurant covers or spa visits during periods of low demand. The location-based nature of Foursquare can discreetly drive additional spend from guests who have physically checked into a “venue” or who are simply in the neighbourhood by offering targeted “specials”. This type of activity can be monitored, measured and refined through the use of performance statistics available to venues.

American Express uses its Twitter profile @AmexUK to encourages its membership to engage with Foursquare. The US domination of Foursquare explains the higher number of check-ins at London properties, within two months of its September 2013 opening, The London Edition had more than 400 “check ins”. Guest-generated “tips” like “Beautiful hotel — Berners Tavern reminds me of Mad Men!” can create a healthy curiosity.

The Dean Street Townhouse boasts more than 4200 “check ins” and again the tips which are all powerful, personal recommendations can invite trial; one Foursquare guest simply wrote: “Try the peach, nectarine frozen yoghurt coupe”. Featuring genuine comments from guests who have taken the trouble to write “tips” about a hotel, all accessible to an audience of up to 40 million — can you afford to ignore Foursquare?

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