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How Businesses like Sylvan Learning Center and Computer Explorers Can Use Foursquare


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Depending on where you live you may be seeing more and more businesses advertising that they participate in Foursquare.foursquareFoursquare awards points and badges when users check-in at locations (check-ins can be done via a mobile phone with internet access or a computer). Businesses can engage and reward consumers by providing deals and discounts to Foursquare users that hold certain badges for checking in and patronizing their business. For example, when a user checks-in to a certain location more than anyone else they earn the “Mayor” badge; more and more restaurants are beginning to reward the Mayor of their location with specials such as a free entree or not having to wait for a table on a busy evening. Enticing specials such as these are offered to keep bringing people back to “oust” the Mayor so that they may benefit from these exclusive deals.  If they’re like me, consumers will keep going to places that don’t even offer deals to Foursquare users yet, simply because they feel special holding “Mayorship” status at their favorite places!

foursquare badges

While I’ll admit not all businesses fit into the Foursquare model, there are some business that may think that they don’t but could definitely use it with a bit of creativity. Let’s take a look at how two franchise companies that work with children, Sylvan Learning Center and Computer Explorers, could use Foursquare to help get children more excited and interested in their services. Disclaimer: According to Foursquare’s Terms, Foursqaure is to be used only by children 13 years of age and older, so for children under the age of 13 please make sure Foursquare is only accessed under strict adult supervision.

First, a very brief intro to our two selected “subject” companies….

Sylvan Learning Center – provides highly personalized instruction in reading, math, writing, study skills, homework help, SAT*/ACT® prep and state test prep.

Computer Explorers – provides technology education to children ages 3 and up at childcare centers, preschools, private and public schools and community centers.

Having worked with children in the past, I’ve experienced first-hand that one of the last things a child wants to do outside of school hours is more school work or anything that appears to be “something else they have to do” – this is where an incentive program could come in handy, and a location based social networking site such as Foursquare could be just the instrument to help.

Privacy First

One of the common misconceptions surrounding Foursquare is that by participating, everyone will know where you are at all times via your check-ins. It is true that you can publish your check-ins to let your Foursquare friends, Twitter followers, and Facebook friends know where you are, however you also have the option to keep your check-ins private so that you aren’t publicizing your location but are still able to receive badges for checking in at certain places and benefit from discounts and deals offered by businesses. That being said, with a little education and implementation of the appropriate privacy settings, parents can feel confident that no one will be able to keep tabs on their children if they were to engage in a Foursquare incentive program through their local Sylvan Learning Center or Computer Explorers program.

Noteworthy Privacy Settings

When a Foursquare account is created, an email address is required – it is recommended that this email address be that of the parent if the child is under the age of 13. After the initial registration page, the next step is to link the Foursquare account to Facebook and Twitter accounts and invite friends to join – this is not necessary or recommended for children. You will also notice that uploading a photo is an option. While your gut instinct tells you not to upload a photo of a child on a social media site, a user must have a photo in order to become the Mayor of a location. But, fear not! There is a solution! Simply upload a generic avatar or cartoon/clip art picture and you’ve fulfilled the photo requirement! After skipping all of the next steps prompting you to link to Twitter and Facebook and invite friends, you will finally come to a link to view your profile. Next click on “Settings” in the upper right-hand corner and un-check all boxes so that the account settings appear as shown below:

The last privacy measure you need to take comes during each check-in. After locating the venue but before clicking the “check-in” button, make sure to switch the drop down regarding sharing preferences to “Hide my location” – you will need to help the child do this each time they check-in.

The Foursquare Incentive Program

To implement this program a Sylvan Learning Center or Computer Explorers location would first add their venue (wherever they will be providing instruction) or claim their venue if it has already been added to Foursquare by going to Foursquare’s business center at http://foursquare.com/businesses. After the venue has been verified by Foursquare, the company can now think of special incentives that children can earn when they become the Mayor (check-in more than anyone else) or check-in X number of times in X days, etc… you can also go to http://foursquare.com/suggest_badge and suggest a badge; perhaps a Computer Explorer badge for a child that checks-in X number of times at a Computer Explorers venue or a Book Worm badge for a child that comes for reading help X number of times at a Sylvan Learning Center. Get creative! The idea here is to break down the resistance of children who need help and/or whose parents want them to engage in an educational/technological type program but cringe at the idea of spending one more minute studying or learning. From a business perspective, if the students who attend a Sylvan Learning Center or a Computer Explorers program start telling their peers about their Foursquare check-ins and all of the “cool” rewards and incentives they are receiving, this may get other children excited and wanting to participate so they start asking their parents if they can attend these programs as well! Nothing like starting word of mouth marketing young!

Children Aren’t Carrying Around PDA’s and SmartPhones, How Do They Check-In?

With the help of a parent or teacher, after going to http://foursquare.com and creating an account with the appropriate privacy settings in place, a child can check-in at any venue via a computer with internet access by going to http://facebook.com/mobile and either typing in the name of the venue or searching by venue name or category. This exercise could be particularly fitting for a Computer Explorers program that is already focusing on implementing technology! Why not make “checking-in” on Foursquare part of the routine?

The Wrap Up

The moral of the story is, don’t automatically assume that a social networking program cannot help your business. Sometimes all it takes is a little “outside of the box thinking” to benefit from these emerging tools.

Does your business implement Foursquare deals? If so, please share!


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June 22, 2010 - Posted by | Foursquare | , , , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

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