How To: Create a Foursquare Special for your Local Business


When Foursquare launched its Merchant Platform, it enabled local businesses to claim their business on the platform, allowing them to have more control over their Foursquare listing and provide better content for mobile consumers.  According to Mashable, over 250,000 businesses have joined Foursquare’s free business platform.

But many local businesses are still left to wonder: why would customers want to check-in to my business on Foursquare? What’s in it for them?

A special, of course!

The attraction of Foursquare for many local consumers is the ability to take advantage of the specials being offered by businesses in their area. Customers can view specials when they “check in” to a business– and often get extra rewards for bringing friends, checking in multiple times, or becoming the “mayor” of a business.

Types of Specials

To offer a special, first you need to know what the different types of specials are on Foursquare. Some of these are pre-existing, like the Mayor special, but Foursquare has recently launched new varieties of specials that local businesses can take advantage of.

Swarm Special – This type of special rewards “swarms” of people who check in to your business at the same time. You can set the number of people required to unlock your swarm special, as well as how many times the special can be unlocked, or redeemed, in one day. For instance, you can offer free beverages when 10 people check in to your restaurant.

Friends Special – Many things are better with friends, and specials are no different. So why not offer a special for customers who check in together, like a free appetizer for the table or a 15% discount on accessories to facilitate loyalty and word of mouth?

Flash Special – A Flash special is basically a “door-buster” deal offered to customers who arrive and check in at a certain time. A freebie or discount can help you drive more foot traffic during slower times of the day.  For instance, a mid-afternoon “happy hour” deal is a great way to offer a flash special.

Newbie Special – If you want to entice new customers to try your business, offer a special just for “newbies” – or customers who check in to your business for the first time.

Check-in Special – To keep customers coming back for repeat business, try offering a general check-in special that gets unlocked every time someone checks into your business. A small discount might be just the trick to bring a Foursquare customer back again and again, and to tell their friends about your business, too.

Loyalty Special – This is similar to the check-in special, but rewards customers after a specific number of check-ins. That means customers have to check in at your business a few times before they can unlock your special, so make it good, like a free drink on every 5th check in to your coffee shop.

Mayor Special – Being the mayor of a business is something to brag about, and should come with perks. So, offer your mayor – the person who has the most check-ins to your business in the past 60 days – something extra-special, like a free dessert with every entrée.

Creating a Special

After you’ve claimed your venue on Foursquare, you can start offering specials to your customers. It’s important to understand what your customers want from your business in order to determine the type of special you want to offer, and for how long. Follow these steps to create a special

  1. Visit and select Manager Tools>Campaigns>Start a Campaign>Add a Special.
  2. Select the type of special you want to offer (e.g., Swarm, Friends, Mayor, etc.)
  3. Define the parameters of the special, if required. For example, if you are creating a Flash special, you need to define how many customers can get the special and what time of day you want to run the offer, like the first 10 customers who arrive after 3 p.m.
  4. Write a description for your special. Foursquare gives you 200 characters to write a message to your customers, like “Thanks for coming to Java’s Coffee Shop. Get a free pastry with the purchase of a latte.” You can be creative with your special, as long as it follows the general parameters of a “good” special.
  5. Add any fine print or restrictions to your offer, like, “Can only be redeemed between 3p.m. and 7p.m.”
  6. Click “Create Special” to finalize your special. If you have multiple locations, you’ll need to select at which one(s) will run the special. You can have different specials running at different locations, or a single special across all locations.

To make sure everyone benefits from your specials, teach your employees how to recognize and fulfill the special. Foursquare provides an employee flyer you can print and share with your staff. In addition, don’t forget to market your special to your customers via an in-store flyer, Foursquare window cling, social media, email, and more.

Which type of Foursquare specials is your local business going to try? What are some creative ways your local business is using Foursquare specials to reward customers and increase business?

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Tamara Weintraub

Tamara is a content marketing manager at ReachLocal with over 7 years experience in B2B marketing and has a nerd-level affinity for software and technology. She specializes in helping local businesses succeed online, writing and learning about Google, search advertising, SEO, and social media marketing. When she's not writing about online marketing, you can find her watching cult TV and hanging out with her Doberman.

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