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Which network’s check in feature offers the most value for your business?

Let’s keep it simple: you’re a burger joint and you want to increase social media traffic by offering a check in deal. You’ve decided to offer a free side of fries after 3 check-ins. So, a customer shows up, checks in, and repeats two times. On that third time, the offer is unlocked and can be redeemed with the next transaction. Great. So, we’ve engaged a customer, gotten him/her excited about a freebie, and encouraged two more visits. We’ve also got this person checking in at the location a minimum of three times. If s/he’s sharing those visits, let’s explore which network offers the best return for your business.

Facebook. Facebook rolled out the ‘Places’ feature for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, and through their touch site. The complimentary business feature is Facebook Deals. Let’s consider for a minute: who are these users reaching when they use Places? These check ins post to their profiles as status updates– easily allowing a customizable commentary note alongside the location (“Best Burger in Boston!”) along with the option of adding photo content and tagging friends who are there too– whether or not they’re checking in or are even using a mobile application.

Pros here: customizable status updates allow users to interject some personality– inclining them to use this network for the check in and also to make the post a bit more ‘read-worthy’. Other location-based services push updates to Facebook anyway; they’re offering a way to contain it within their network. I’d assume even the “check in wary” are likely to try the Facebook option, since they’ve likely got a Facebook account already.

The reach: Rather than blacklist this as a con, I’ll just offer up the data: sharing a Place check in will reach only that user’s network. Facebook statistics state the average user has 130 friends. Additionally, I’m not convinced individuals have the ability to sway the purchasing decisions of their friends as much as they would be able to inspire their more anonymous networks (Twitter, for example. Followers accrue based on keywords, interests, and links shared, making that network the most “professional” in the consumer buying sense*).

Foursquare. Foursquare is entirely built around the concept of checking in. I’m inspired to check in when a business is offering something worthwhile (i.e. Live Nation’s $10 off a ticket purchase when I checked in at the House of Blues- done!), but since I don’t have an existing Foursquare network, I’m not super inclined to build one.

Pros here: For your business, I’d say Foursquare is the most buzzed-about check in service, since that’s what it was built for. Kind of works under the “keep it simple” principle– if you want to stick with a network that isn’t likely to offer other end-user components, go with this one.

The reach: It’s no secret that the maximum amount of connections/friends one can have is 6,000. So we’ll limit the reach there. Couldn’t dig up any good stats on the average user’s network size. My general bias is this is a new network (albeit with 6.5 million users and growing), and most people connect to friends they’re already linked with on Facebook. Foursquare will push to Facebook or Twitter, though. These updates are not user-customizable.

Yelp. Yelp added check ins to the canon of available functions on its mobile application last November. I wax poetic about it here. To summarize that post, Yelp check in offers work similarly to the other networks.

Pros here: Yelp offers an interesting package, since all content is tied to the main function of the site, which are user reviews of local businesses. The site prompts users to review businesses where they’ve checked in.

The reach: Similar to Foursquare, Yelp allows users to push check ins to Facebook and Twitter. Again, these posts can’t be customized– but I foresee that coming. Additionally, the mobile application gathers data on users checking in (and leaving Quick Tips)– users are ranked on a weekly basis for these contributions.

At the end of the day, we’re going to recommend Yelp to our clients, since they’re continuing to evolve their customer product and have moved into the check in space. Facebook has a similar strength going for it, but my concern is the limit of reach. Yelp connects users with other users through rankings, and also allows sharing with Facebook itself, and Twitter. They’ve established themselves as a “business conscious” network since 2005.

*I’ve opened a can of worms by implicitly championing Twitter as the right network for individuals to use persuasive buying power. More on that to come.




As a recent iPhone convert and avid Yelper, I typically check in at local businesses using Yelp’s mobile application. The app is free, and a nearly full-service version of the desktop site with some additional functionality– monocle anyone? Love how it commandeers your phone’s camera and local businesses and their ratings pop up to guide you to the nearest burrito joint, drugstore, etc. But that’s old news. What’s new that I’m seeing is a sub-community being built around the mobile application, specifically caused by check ins.

First, why check in? From a business perspective, managers can see their popularity in real time and can offer promotional offers, a la Foursquare. What I’ve been able to dig up on statistics are that Yelp claims check in use increases by 50% each month {source: Mashable’s Post here}. It’s a component of the “business owner package”– the company’s sales arm mails out window clings and encourages businesses to take control of their listing by including offers (now mobile) and responding to user reviews. Sure, being able to respond to a review complaining “Josie was rude” or lauding “Julie’s 6 am Abs and Butt Power Hour” is nice, but the real value for a business now is to connect with active Yelp users through the check in offer.

Think about it: Yelp offers a user experience directly tied to business reputation; avid users of the site have been writing “real” reviews– per’s official slogan– since 2005. 3 months ago, check ins roll out, and users with smart phones can now share their location/recent activity with the Yelp community, as well as push these updates to their Facebook friends and Twitter followers. Oh, they can also add ‘quick tips’ on the go. Users are rewarded with rankings: classifications as a regular after multiple visits, badges unlocked based on types of businesses frequented, Dukedoms (sounds a lot like Foursquare’s mayor title), and a numeric positioning for number of check ins and quick tips, refreshed on a weekly basis. So, cool. I’ve got a new sense of worth as a Yelp member because I use the check in feature. (Side note: I’m also getting fans– anonymous followers of my profile–  at a rate of 3-4 per week lately, which appears to correlate directly with my check in activity.)

my mobile Yelp profile shows my key check in stats

How does this new, ‘real time’ subset of the Yelp community really create significance for your business? Simple. Check in offers make customers happy. Happy customers write good reviews. Sure, Foursquare users can become the mayor of your location, and Scvngr users can post pictures of your product for points, but the most basic useful content a user can generate for your business is a positive review. And, PS, the website automatically prompts users to write reviews when they log in after check ins. Tap into a community of (mostly) articulate, (hopefully) satisfied, (definitely) tech-savvy and tuned-in to trends individuals in your demographic by embracing Yelp as a major player in the check in space.