I have been a fan of Four Square since it was a bitty baby app with just a few thousand users.  Today, it is the darling of the social media crowd with high profile partnerships with VH1, Chilis, The History Channel, Starbucks and more.  As a retailer, it should be at the top of your list for new media promotion.

    Here’s how it works.  Four Square users opt in to becoming part of a social circle (their Four Square friends) using their smart phone.  They can check in to their locations (work, restaurants, bars, gyms. stores, anywhere!) and let their friends know where they are on Four Square.  They can let their facebook and twitter communities know as well.  In addition to knowing where your friends like to hang out (there is a bit of boasting as you check in to the opening day game, a popular concert or amusement part) you can also get recommendations from your friends about their location.  Like, “The Thai wings here ROCK!” or “Ask for Kim – she pours the best drinks” or “Mondays is all you can eat sushi!!”

    Early moving restaurants and retailers have been using Four Square to do more than become an augmented word of mouth vehicle.  When someone checks in near your store, you can have a banner pop up that says “nearby offer” and let users know you have a BOGO or a special event when they check in to your store.  I recently checked in at Dino’s and got a free appetizer offer just for checking in.  And there’s more.  The person who checks into your location the most is “the mayor” of your location.  Lots of places reserve an uber-offer just for the mayor.  I have seen everything from free dry cleaning to free drinks to a free raw bar platter EVERYDAY at Sea Change in Minneapolis.  What a great way to turn a frequent diner into a rabid evangelist diner as he or she competes to be the mayor.

    Yes, the system can be gamed.  But for Four Square fans, venues that tap into their desire for a good deal get free promotion of that deal to everyone in that person’s community.  (For some of my friends, when they check in, they are letting over 400 people know where they are and what they are doing.) The goal of Four Square for users?  Getting badges (like Gym Rat for checking into a gym 10 times in 30 days,) bragging rights for friends and getting special deals.  The goal of Four Square for retailers? Learning how to let new media find shoppers in your area, promote your great deals and build loyalty.

    This is what retailers have been waiting for!  Customers telling you when they are in your location and asking what you will do special for them.  Retailers have dozens of these offers going all the time.  Its just a matter of making Four Square a part of the promotional plan.

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