I saw one of my Facebook friends ask people to check into her business on Facebook and Twitter.

I slapped my forehead because she can’t actually can’t track that unless she’s clairvoyant. (And if you are clairvoyant, by all means close your business and make a ton of money on that skill!)

Having people ‘check in’ on social media allows for several things, including increased visibility for your business on social media and an incentive for people to physically come in to your place of business.

If you are encouraging this behavior (and offering people something to do it), it’s important to understand how it works.

I joke with people that the opposite of what I want people to do is come into the Breaking Even office so I don’t go out of my way to promote in this way. That said, I have some advice that might help those of you who want to encourage this behavior.

1) Encourage people to check in and show someone at that moment for a reward.

If you want people to check into your business (on Yelp, Foursquare, or Facebook… or all three), have them do the checkin on their smartphone and show it to a cashier. (A simple sign at your business can accomplish letting people know they can do this).

Then the cashier can give them something: a chocolate, a pen, some other novelty. Then the cashier can note about who checks in and what website/social network they used. Heck they can even use a camera to snap a picture of the person holding their phone so you can keep track:


(That’s me being the Foursquare mayor of Dog and Pony after checking in. Stop being jealous.)

So the check in, show us, take a picture method would take care of not only getting people to check in but tracking those checkins on your side. (You may ask yourself which websites sent the most people to your business? Who are your repeat customers? These are all questions that can be answered with data.) Have the photographed person leave their email address for entry to win a larger prize, like a gift certificate that’s drawn monthly, if you want to encourage continued participation.

2) Use ‘deals’ programs with Yelp, Foursquare, and Facebook if you want people engaged on those sites who are not physically in your store.  

You might ask yourself other than announcing this on social media and posting a sign at my business about it, how can I get new eyeballs on this checkin idea? Well, you might need to throw some money at the problem. Not a lot of money but some experimental money.

All these checkin websites have ‘deals’ apps where people can check in and get a deal. As the business owner you need to set this up with whatever you are comfortable with.

Watch out though because sometimes they take a hefty fee for you to offer this (Yelp takes 30% of a deal so if you offer $20 gift certificate for the price of $10, Yelp gets $3.33 of each deal in addition to the 50% off your business is already eating in costs.)

To learn more:




3) Foursquare gives you the names/faces/profiles of who came in. No other site does.

Now I told you earlier that my business is a terrible example. We’re an internet company: we don’t have the coffee, staff, or otherwise to have people just stopping in. So our stats are pretty sad looking:

I did want to show though if you were a ‘real’ business with real people coming in (not three people), you can get actual face data using Foursquare (here’s a client’s account. I blurred faces and names so as to protect identities):



Facebook will not tell you who came in. Yelp will not tell you who came in. And Twitter will only tell you if that person shared a Foursquare checkin on Twitter.

In case you don’t believe me, on Facebook, even as a page admin, all I can see is the # of people who were here:


And on Yelp, I can only see the number of mobile checkins (guess how many Breaking Even has had?):


So if you don’t like my idea in #1 and want some covert way to get the names/faces of people who check in, when they check in, etc, use Foursquare only.

Am I saying all this to make your life hard? Of course not.

But as the popular adage goes “Marketing is measuring.” So having a clear idea of what you’re measuring and why you’re measuring it, you’ll know how to best execute it.

So by all means, encourage people to check into your business. Just understand how it’ll work so you can tell your employees and customers… and so you can see how many more people come into your business than usual.

For more info about location based social media, check out an email newsletter we wrote about it.

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