It’s amazing how fast a social network can catch on. The most recent example is Foursquare. Co-founder Dennis Crowley recently announced they added almost 100,000 users in the ten days following SXSW. You might be tempted to write it off as a fad, but remember: Twitter started in a very similar way.
For those of you not familiar with Foursquare, let’s start at the beginning. It’s a location-based social network that combines your friends, location and status, meaning it allows me to tell my friends where I am and what I’m doing. The interesting thing about Foursquare is that this happens in a pseudo-game format. When I check-in at places, I get points. After multiple check-ins, I get badges. And I can see how many points I have in comparison to my friends.
While many are talking about the benefits of Foursquare as a marketing tool, don’t forget some of the same concepts can be applied to the internal workforce. Here are four ways you can use Foursquare in the workplace.
Universities like Harvard and UNC Charlotte are using Foursquare as a way to introduce students to the campus. Students can check in at the bookstore, guidance office, etc. This has employee orientation potential written all over it.
Matthew Thompson, digital account director for The Zimmerman Agency, said that’s exactly what they do. “We currently have around 35% of the agency on Foursquare and it is used in a variety of methods — from seeing where someone is inside the [Zimmerman] campus, to new business.” So not only could you use Foursquare as a way for employees to learn their way around the office, but you could also use it as a way for them to learn where your key customers and/or suppliers are located.
One thing to consider about this kind of location tracking is that some employees might view it with privacy concerns. You’ll want to consider if you need to address this via an employee handbook or social media policy. And it will be important to communicate at a high-level that the intent isn’t for spying — it’s a learning opportunity.
Additionally, Chris Tiedje, social media coordinator at the Sun Sentinel Media Company, said some employees expressed not wanting to disclose their location after reading articles about “Please Rob Me.” He explained “it’s a tough nut to crack,” but he firmly believes in “allowing employees free access to all social media sites.”
2. Making Work Easier
One of the best ways to help your employees succeed is to give them tools that make their job easier. Foursquare could be one of those tools. For example, Tiedje shared that, as a news organization, Foursquare can “be crucial in a developing news story.”
But they aren’t the only industry. B.J. Emerson, director of information and social technologies at Tasti D-Lite, said the biggest benefit they’ve seen is greater engagement with customers. And it’s certainly easier to deal with happy customers than unhappy ones.
“Since Tasti D-Lite has always had a passionate and vocal fan base, our use of social networks like Foursquare has been a very natural extension for us. Beyond strengthening our customer relationships, we’ve been able to acquire new customers through the use of Foursquare’s nearby specials. We also believe that our TastiRewards/Foursquare integration has helped encourage and enhance existing customer loyalty.”
Emerson indicated they have 17 locations participating in the TastiRewards program which features the auto-check-in and shout messages. They have seen an increase in foot traffic as a result. Having external drivers for customer engagement can take some of the pressure off front-line staff.
Recognition is important to everyone. If you use Foursquare, you know one of its unique features is the ability to become the “Mayor” of a location. This title is bestowed upon the person who has visited a location the most times over a given time period.
Sometimes locations such as restaurants or retail outlets will offer deals to the mayor. But even when nothing is offered, there’s still something special about becoming mayor. And if you don’t think people notice, think again. I became the mayor of my grocery store, only to return home and have the former mayor leave me a Tweet promising that he would regain the title. (Side note: As of this post, I’m still the mayor.)
Tiedje mentioned he’s currently the mayor at the Sun Sentinel. “I’ve been trading back and forth with one of our page designers. I lost it after going on vacation. Actually not sure how I got it back!”
While being named mayor of your workplace can be a unique form of recognition, Emerson pointed out sometimes mayorship can be a challenge in a retail environment. You’ll have to figure out how to balance employee recognition and customer rewards. “At the Nashville Tasti D-Lite franchise location, the employees and one of the owners play Foursquare regularly and have an obvious advantage.”
[Editor’s note: Mashable’s East Coast Events Director Brett Petersel is currently mayor of our new New York offices.]
We all know that creating a positive corporate culture is a key component to high levels of employee satisfaction and productivity. Thompson mentions part of their agency’s success is attributed to the fun they have at work. And Foursquare is, for the most part, a morale booster. “There is a certain pride that is gathered when someone becomes mayor of one of the Presidents’ offices. It also is a great value-added service for existing clients. We add their locations to Foursquare (where applicable) to lower the barrier of engagement with the end user. More importantly, Foursquare does provide value-added impressions when the user is looking for places around them. We have several strategies in place for a deeper dive that include tips, utilizing the API, and developing specific programs.”
Thompson did boast (jokingly of course) that he’s currently the mayor of President Curtis Zimmerman’s office. “When he found out, he told me he was dictator and that trumps mayor. Always a conversation starter and a lot of fun.”
So it is possible to have fun and work at the same time. Emerson reminds us that like any strategy, it’s important to develop a plan. “Understand your objectives and how Foursquare may be used to accomplish your organizational goals. Get leaders involved so they understand the platform and can appreciate the application from a communication perspective.”
With applications like Foursquare, we have an opportunity to create forums for our employees to come together as teams or interact with customers in a fun and authentic way.
Let us know how you’re using Foursquare at work in the comments.
More business resources from Mashable:
– Growing Your Business: 5 Tips From the Founder of Foursquare
– 5 Simple Tools for a Paperless Office
– How One Small Biz Turned Their Company Retreat Into Social Media Success
– 5 Essential Apps for Your Business’s Facebook Fan Page
– HOW TO: Implement a Social Media Business Strategy