Going Geo: Location-Based Services & Your Small Business

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“Location, location, location!” have always been the words on real estate agents’ lips, but now with the rising popularity of smartphones they’re the words your clients are buzzing about too. Location-based services (aka: LBS or geolocation apps) are applications for mobile phones that use a smartphone’s GPS to help the user find businesses around them. Whether you’re using them or not, chances are some of your clients already are!

Geolocation is the integration of a user’s physical location with social media. As smartphones are multiplying in popularity, geolocation services like Foursquare and Facebook Places are going to continue to grow, so as a business owner it’s important to understand how they work and how your business fits in. Here is an overview of the most popular geolocation apps and how you can get started with them as a business owner.

There are heaps of geolocation apps available to smartphone users now. The two most popular are Foursquare and Facebook Places. We’ll cover these in more depth in a later post, but here’s what you need to know about them to get started:



Foursquare is a location-based game that users play via their smartphones. Users get points by “checking in” to physical locations via the app. They can earn badges for certain combinations of check-ins (i.e. checking in to five coffee shops gets them the “Fresh Brew” badge). These little incentives have gone a long way in building a solid base of users; as of April, Foursquare had 8.5 million users worldwide and over 77,000 unique visitors just in Australia.

What does this geeky game have to do with your business? Well, as long as your business has a physical address, your company is a part of the playing field. Check out Foursquare to find and claim your venue.

Takeaway: Foursquare users have a “game” mentality, so learn the rules and position your business to play along!

Facebook Places

Facebook Places is a giant among geolocation services, mostly because it’s centred on Facebook’s 700 million user platform. Through Facebook mobile or http://touch.facebook.com, users can check in to venues to share their whereabouts with their Facebook network. The most important distinction between Foursquare and Facebook Places is users’ motivation for sharing this information: on Facebook Places, users are checking in for the sake of informing all their friends, rather than for playing a game like on Foursquare.

Takeaway:  If you have a website you should have a Facebook Fan Page, and if you have a physical address you should have it on Facebook Places. 700 million users is too big to ignore!


Deals & promotions

Now of course there will always be a fair amount of users who are willing to try out any new application that comes their way, but in order to get the rest on board, Facebook Places and Foursquare are teaming up with business owners (like you!) to entice more users to play along. Foursquare allowed business owners to offer deals and specials, which are ways to run mini promotions for anyone who checks in to your venue. Facebook Places is expected to be setting up a similar system in Australia very soon.

For example: I’m on my smartphone and I check-in to a coffee shop on Facebook Places. When I go to the app to check in, I see that two of my mates from the office have also been here recently, and they’ve left a comment about how good the soy lattes are. Taking my workmate’s advice, I order a soy latte (delicious!), and then happily start telling people about this great coffee shop, both in real life and all over Facebook. Social proof!

You can even use these check-in promotions to steal away your neighbors’ customers! On Foursquare, when a user goes to check-in somewhere it brings up a list of other nearby places. If your venue has a promotion listed, your venue will be featured in bright letters to gain attention.

For example: I’m on my smartphone and I’ve just checked in to that same great coffee shop, this time on Foursquare. I’m just sitting down to enjoy my latte, and Foursquare shows me a list of other venues in the area. I see that there’s a bookstore on the next street over I’d never noticed before, and they’re offering a $5 off special for new customers. Normally I’d buy my books at ABC Books on the other side of town, but the promotion is enough for me to decide I’ll stop by on my way home rather than getting that novel I’ve been wanting somewhere else.

The absolute best part of all this? Currently, business listings and related promotions on Facebook Places and Foursquare is 100% free.

Still not convinced you ought to bother with all this? Think in terms of SEO, where every mention of your business puts you and your customers closer together.


Have you had any experience with Geolocation services? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Not sure what to make of all this social media stuff? Check out our social media packages to see what we can help you with and how.  

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