The age of social media is among us, and in order for the PR industry to continue to produce results, they must effectively integrate social media for their clients. Lisa Cesaro of Berkman PR discusses Foursquare, and how it changes the PR game for hospitality clients.

Foursquare is a location-based social networking site that allows registered users to connect with friends and update their location using their Smart Phone’s GPS. Points are awarded for “checking in” at certain venues. Users can choose to have their check-ins posted on their Twitter and Facebook accounts making it an even more effective marketing tool. Different badges, such as “Mayor” among others create a “gaming” aspect to the application. The more frequently a user checks into a place the greater their chance to earn different badges as well as other user privileges. A user is crowned “Mayor” if they have checked-in to a venue more frequently then anybody else. They can lose their “Mayor” badge if another user surpasses their visits. Users can also create a “To Do” list for their private use and add “Tips” to venues that other users can read, which serve as suggestions for great things to do, see or eat at the location.

As a social media marketing tool, Foursquare is very effective as it requires minimal maintenance.  Foursquare is all about the content and activity from users. Restaurants and hotels can increase their appeal by giving “specials” to users that “check-in” or discounts for the “Mayor”. Because Foursquare is like a game, it creates virtual incentives for people to come and “check-in” at the venue. While driving traffic to the restaurant or hotel, Foursquare also facilitates both loyalty to the venue and word-of-mouth marketing. What more could a restaurant ask for?

Of course, the effectiveness of Foursquare will ultimately depend on the demographic of customers that frequent the venue. You want to do the research to see if your customers are using Foursquare. Businesses can take advantage of real-time data about Foursquare usage, including who has “checked in” via Foursquare, when they arrived, the male-to-female customer ratio and when customers are more active.

The most successful Foursquare accounts are those that incorporate creativity. Companies should implement special badges for customers to earn and create Foursquare strategies to drive sales and garner buzz in the community.

Although Foursquare is fairly new to the scene, it is yet another effective tool that PR professionals should consider to promote restaurants and hotels alike.