How “Moving Targets” Can Use Foursquare and Other Location Services

Smartphone location-based apps like Foursquare and Gowalla are growing in popularity, and they provide an ideal way to keep tabs on your customers and incentivize new visitors with special promotions. Offering prizes to people who check in frequently is easy when your business never moves — but if you run a food or ice cream truck, how can your customers keep track of you?

List your most frequent destination or your starting point as your “address.” Even if your mobile business moves frequently, you’ll likely have a set starting point or a few regular destinations. List your most common location as your address, so customers will find you in the most natural location. If you travel within a limited geographic area, your customers will probably still be able to check in even if you’re a few blocks away, since your establishment will show up on their “nearby places” tab.

Create signs and other marketing materials that invite customers to check in on their location-based app of choice. Even if your establishment is out of range (based on its “address” location), your customers can still check in anytime. To make it easy for them, consider creating a sign with a QR code, which customers can scan with their smartphones to check in instantly.

Link your Twitter account to location-based apps, and broadcast your location there. Foursquare and several other location-based apps allow merchant users to sync up their Twitter accounts with the apps. By doing this, you can use the Twitter service to let both Twitter and other app followers know exactly where your business is at any given time.

Provide one-time check-in promotions. If an app doesn’t know exactly where your business is at any given moment, it’s easy for users to cheat and pretend to have visited your establishment far more often than they actually have. Instead of rewarding long-term fans (who may not actually be as loyal as you think), focus on offering free gifts or discounts for a user’s first check-in. On Foursquare, you might also want to offer gifts to users who leave “tips” (i.e., reviews of your establishment on Foursquare — not cash). A Mexican food truck called Colibri recently began offering a free churro to any user who left a tip, and the nine reviews it’s collected have helped drive interest from other Foursquare users.

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