With north of 10 million users, Foursquare is one of the most popular "check-in" platforms available today. While Google and Facebook offer similar capabilities to check into businesses via their apps, Foursquare has emerged as a leader (beating out Gowalla and Loopt) in the location-based services category. For retail-based businesses, check-in or LBS platforms are an extension of local SEO and cannot be ignored. Here are a few reasons why:
Awareness: When I check into a restaurant, hotel, or other business location, everyone in my Foursquare network sees where I am. In addition, since I syndicate Twitter and Facebook, the effective reach is even higher. For example, when I check into Hotel Lucia, 200-plus Foursquare followers will be notified, as well as 2,800-plus Twitter followers and more than 900 Facebook friends. That adds up to nearly 4,000 impressions off of one check-in.
Sales (prevention): Checking into a business is only part of the process. Active Foursquare users typically comment about their experience (see below) or leave "tips" about the business for others to read. If the comments or tips are positive, then you'll likely see new business from the check-ins. If the posts are negative, however, be prepared to find out the hard way. Social media is a double-edged sword, in that it can build (or destroy) a brand very quickly. Manage this by claiming, optimizing, and monitoring your listing.
Advertising: Foursquare is still refining its advertising strategy, but it does offer unique opportunities, like creating custom "badges." While expensive, they can be effective branding and promotional tools (see Conan's Blimp badge).