Everyone likes the word “free.”
We like it even more if the free product or service offered is a seriously good deal.Knowing this simple fact, international clothing retailer Gap® gave away 10,000 free pairs of jeans to its U.S. customers on Nov. 5, 2010. The catch? No catch, really: All one had to do was visit a local Gap store, log in to Facebook’s™ Places application on a mobile phone, and virtually “check-in” to the store’s location.

“Checkin-in” with a smartphone sends the customer’s physical location to the Facebook Places application. If the location matches that of a Gap store, the check-in is valid and a free pair of jeans rewarded. In our opinion, a free pair of jeans is a pretty worthwhile prize for doing little more than walking into a Gap location!

Gap’s LBSN (location based social network) promotion is a great example of how businesses can harness the power of geolocation technology to ultimately build awareness, develop a customer base, boost sales and foster positive word-of-mouth among consumers and the media.

From promotions to rewards, and research to recognition, opportunities abound when it comes to putting your customers in the spotlight and boosting your business’ buzz in the community with LBSNs. We have some steps to help you get started … and if you want to learn more, we’ve written a Blue Paper® on the topic as well.

Step 1: Choose a LBSN, and get registered.
Sites like BrightKite, Facebook Places, Foursquare™, Gowalla and others have all become popular options for LBSN marketing efforts. Each has benefits and obstacles to be considered, as well as higher efficacy rates for different target audiences. Once your business or organization determines which site is best, get registered and get started.

Step 2: Set goals.
The goals for your campaign will determine the entire scope of your efforts. What do you want to achieve by marketing to individuals via a LBSN? Asking this question, in addition to those outlined below, will serve as a springboard for fleshing out your concrete goals and objectives.

Step 3: Identify incentives and/or promotions.
One of the most successful marketing tactics to use in conjunction with LBSNs is offering incentives or a special promotion for certain check-in behavior.  Identify what you will offer and what behavior(s) it will depend on. How will your promotion generate appreciation, awareness, sales or other goals? Here are a few tips:

  1. Use it as a loyalty card—A discount or promotion is given for every “x” number of check-ins, similar to the paper version of a punch card. After five check-ins, offer a fun branded giveaway like t-shirts or stadium blankets.
  2. Use it as an upgrade mechanism—Give a free add-on to a current service or product purchase, simply for checking in.
  3. Use it to boost traffic on slow days or special days— If you’re launching a new product or service, holding a special event or offering a slam-bang sale, consider rewarding those who check-in during the specified time or date.
  4. Use it as an incentive for first-timers—Operating a LBSN mobile application to check-in to a place for the first time can be a bit daunting. Who will see my update, and will anyone care? Ease the trepidation by offering a great first-timer perk. Brainstorm rewards that are low-risk to you but have high impact to your customers, like business card holders or folding chairs.
  5. Use it as an incentive for repeat visitors—Many businesses reward their most “loyal” customer (the individual with the most check-ins) during a given period of time. This super-user is often referred to in LBSN language as the location’s “mayor,” and is many times entitled to special promotions such as unique freebies, deep discounts or public recognition.
  6. Use it as an incentive for bringing friends—Consider giving perks when a user checks in with more than one person. This is the idea behind Foursquare’s current “swarm badge”—a game-piece graphic, shaped as a badge, awarded to users who check in to a place with 50 or more other users at the same time. Consider scaling the idea down for your business to make the promotion more attainable when starting out.
  7. Use it as an added-value to partners—Let’ say you’re holding a conference with sponsors. Offer attendees a percentage off their admission fee or a branded tote or USB flash drive if they check in to all sponsor booths at the conference.

Step 4: Set up the deal.
Once you know what promotion you’d like to offer and what behavior it’s based on, it’s time to set up the deal within the LBSN.

Step 5: Cross-pollinate.
You’ve completed all necessary set-up steps. Kudos! Now, it’s time to get the word out. Cross-promoting your geolocation marketing campaign efforts with other organizational endeavors will only increase the amount of awareness and, in turn, ultimate customer participation.

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