Tampa leads the world in using foursquare to promote local businesses

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Me: How can businesses use it to develop customer loyalty?

Dr. Nate: Thank your customers. They come back enough and demonstrate loyalty you give them discounts and stuff. They appreciate it so you become a special place in their life. You are more on their radar if you didn’t have that level of involvement. As a consumer, you feel a bond with that place!

Me: Why are consumers and businesses using Foursquare?

Dr. Nate: It’s fun to check in as a consumer. But the reason I got on board and so have the others who are helping put this together is from business point of view… We see an opportunity to promote ourselves and develop stronger relationships with patients and customers at no cost.

From a business owner’s perspective – there is only so many ways you can market yourselves. Pour $$ into ads and get almost no return. It’s so frustrating. But this is so simple. It’s the simplicity of foursquare that is it’s strength.

Me: So, Tell me everything.

Dr. Nate: I didn’t expect this to happen. Every single day since the beginning there would be a little step as more people became interested and involved. And now it’s getting really amazing. Mumbai. Jakarta. Seoul. Beijing. Today I even heard from foursquare and they were all excited – “this list has a 100 different cities on it!”

Me: So, What does this mean for Tampa?

Dr. Nate: The fact we started it is good for Tampa. It’s a positive story getting global attention and all eyes are on Tampa. People aren’t going to move here because we started it, but it gives people something to rally around. Tampa takes a leadership role in the social media universe. We are not the underdog in this realm!

Mayor Iorio has even formally proclaimed it Foursquare day!  That’s interesting in and of itself.

Me: What trends do you notice in the businesses and cities who are participating?

Dr. Nate: Manchester, NH and North Andover, MA have huge #s of businesses signed up on it.

It’s very interesting that mid-sized communities have embraced this more than anything else. Towns of 2-3k people nope. Big cities nope. Not a single event in San Diego. There’s one in L.A. and one in NY which is the people from foursquare themselves. But in smaller cities there are multiple swarms (events).

Coming out of recession and all businesses are looking for any angle to promote without any money to burn – that’s one angle why it’s so successful. It takes no financial investment on the part of the business owner – they just say they are going to do it, and then the town gets excited.

I don’t know why – but thinking about it … it has to do with the face those mid-sized communities are where people have balance between their real-life and social networks. There’s a feeling like, “it’s my city and I’m going to go to the extra effort for this to happen here.” Whereas in Chicago, not so much. Mid-size cities people can just jump in and take ownership of it

Foursquare Day has gone from non-existent to cool event in less than a month. Larger corporations aren’t involved because they can’t react that fast. Even if they know about it, want to make a decision they can’t because to react would take too much effort. Big corporations want to sponsor some of the events, but their hands are tied becaue they can’t respond with agility – their structure is such there are too many steps along the way.

Smaller biz who make up mid-sized comm. Can take advantage of it . I call my wife, ask her what she thinks about me putting on a sale. Then I walk across the street and tell my neighbor he should do the same thing. Small businesses have the ability to take advantage of this whereas huge corporations can’t. That reality plays a role in why certain communities have been able to get on board.

Me: What’s it been like putting Foursquare Day together?

Dr. Nate: This whole experience has been wild. An outrageous amount of work. On another level it’s so fast and so unknown. I’ve gone from being someone who’s enjoyed and appreciated social media to forging new ground – it’s a totally different place to be. I haven’t had the time to try to read books on what to do when you are starting a global movement and how to deal with various situations, so we’re just making it up as we go along.

The reality is this is the most bare-bones skelton crew I’ve ever been a part of. There are other events and projects I’ve been involved in where people who volunteer it’s just a little part of their lives. But with Foursquare Day we know there is a deadline and we’ve all thrown ourselves into it.

Me: Why are other people so dedicated to making Foursquare Day happen?

Dr. Nate: Lots of different reasons.

  • The sheer novelty of idea even when it was really small with no attention. For the people who got on early it was a new thought. It’s not that often where people really are part of something completely new.

  • Foursqaure being hot is part of attraction.

  • The concept of it being a math-based holiday has a geek quality that’s attractive. It doesn’t appeal to everyone, but there is enough geek pride on the internet it’s appealing!

Me: What can businesses learn from this?

Dr. Nate: Businesses can learn that you are not going to garner attention appealing to everyone. Get niche!!!

When I first started mulling over the idea of Foursquare Day, I wondered how many people could this realistically reach...

  • 500,000 people use foursquare

  • Maybe 10% are passionate enough to care about the idea of a Foursquare Day. That’s 50,000.

  • Of that 50,000, maybe 50% are engaged and the other 50% are not paying attention so maybe 25,000 that will be interested.

  • Even 10% of those people is 2500 people it’s a sizable chunk. And that’s what we almost are on our fb page now!

Me: Would you want to stop being an eye doctor and just do social media?

Dr. Nate: No way! I did it to promote my practice. It’s a very different kind of lifestyle. I look forward to returning to my normal life. Soon. I have a lot of work to catch up on.

And last but not least, there’s a party a.k.a “swarm” happening in downtown Tampa on Foursquare Day 4/16/10

6-9pm at the Hyatt Regency downtown located at 211 N. Tampa St.

  • Free WIFI.

  • Free appetizers.

  • Generous food & drink specials.

  • Tons of prizes and fun stuff!

For the first time in history there is a top ten list upon which Tampa and Beijing are mentioned in the same breath. It’s the list of top participating cities celebrating Foursquare Day.  And it all started when a mild-mannered optometrist from Westchase was thinking about new ways to use social media to promote his business, got an idea and rallied the entire world around it.

It started when Dr. Nate Bonilla-Warford (just call him Dr. Nate) was thinking about new ways to promote his business, wrote a few blog posts about it, a few tweets and now there are parties organizing all over the world. He was playing around with Foursquare, a social media application where users can “check-in” at stores, restaurants, bars, optometrists, etc. and comment about their experience. (It’s another way people are sharing information about places they recommend.) Then Dr. Nate started thinking about the math. 4-squared. The 4th month, and the 4-squared day and thus the world is getting ready to celebrate Foursquare Day this Friday 4/16 and businesses all over the world can benefit and users and consumers can have fun with it.

“It doesn’t appeal to everyone, but there is enough geek pride on the internet it’s appealing,” says Dr. Nate. And to reach those it does appeal to, business owners need to take notice. If your business wants to participate, all you have to do is post your Foursquare Day Special on the Web site (just be sure to read the instructions first) and voila! – you’re in. No financial investment required and you’ve got a free listing, advertising and PR. Hopefully you will attract new customers. Give them a great experience, something to talk about, and chances are they will comment about it on Foursquare, recommending your business to other users. It’s all good for business.

To get the full story on Foursquare Day, I interviewed Dr. Nate, the mastermind who came up with idea of a global social media holiday that could benefit local businesses…

Me: Who can participate in Foursquare Day?

Dr. Nate: Everyone is invited – all Foursquare users, businesses and anyone else who is just curious and wants to learn more. It’s a day for people who don’t know what social media is but these swarms (events) are a free casual, low intensity way to interact with business owners who use it to benefit their lives. This kind of social, educational events aren’t available wide-scale. Anyone can come. Non-social media users can come. They might become a user. It’s beyond Foursquare.

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