By Erica Christoffer, Multimedia Web Producer, REALTOR® Magazine
Make a New Year’s resolution to focus on social media platforms that work for you and your business. When I say work, I mean platforms that you’re comfortable using, enjoy updating, and that help you make authentic and meaningful connections with your sphere.
For author and communications coach Carmine Gallo, that platform would be foursquare.
Gallo became a believer when he was introduced to the app by his publisher about two years ago. Gallo has an insatiable interest in all things that improve communication. He’s also the author of The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs and The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs.
Gallo started using the foursquare while on a business trip in New York after a presentation in Hoboken, N.J. He was searching for a place to have dinner, so he opened foursquare to see if it could help. Just around the corner was a restaurant called the Energy Kitchen offering free coffee. “Foursquare opens up a whole new world for you because businesses are using this mobile medium to attract you with incentives,” he said. “I walked into Energy Kitchen — had never been there before, never heard of it before — and it was just fabulous!”
After traveling home to California, Gallo ended up calling the marketing director of Energy Kitchen to pick her brain, and it became the first interview for his book, The Power of foursquare: 7 Innovative Ways to Get Your Customers to Check In Wherever They Are, which was released in November.
When planning for the year ahead, Gallo says think mobile. Foursquare is a good place to start — especially if many of your clients are using foursquare, too.
Gallo chatted with the Weekly Book Scan to provide a window into his foursquare evangelism. Here’s what he had to say:
Can you explain how foursquare works?
Gallo: Foursquare is a mobile, social networking app that allows its users to “check-in” to the places they visit and gives you the ability to share that check-in with your friends and followers. It falls under the category of location-based services.
It doesn’t sound like much. People might ask, “What’s in it for me?” Well, that’s where a lot of business owners need to understand how powerful this is.
There are millions of people checking-in everyday (15 million worldwide). They’re using their mobile phone and foursquare to check-in to restaurants, theatres, gyms, and stores. They’re checking-in every day, in every city, on every continent — 23 times per second someone is checking-in. This is where your clients are already heading. They’re already on these mobile platforms, or at least they’re on their smartphone.
How can real estate professionals specifically benefit from using foursquare?
Gallo: For business owners of any type — not just people who own a restaurant, but REALTORS® as well — they can use foursquare as a business tool. They can use it to attract and engage clients in ways that were never possible before smartphones. There are 500,000 businesses on the platform today and it’s growing. Many of them are rewarding people for their check-ins.
All you have to do is go on foursquare, register your business, and offer a special. The specials can be very creative. And you can offer tips. That’s where it becomes powerful for real estate agents – offering tips helps you become more of a local expert in your area. Users can leave tips (information or recommendations) for any place you check-in to. If you check-in to a place and it awards you for leaving a tip, more people end up leaving tips…and the tips are searchable. You can use foursquare to extend your brand through a whole new category of users through the use of tips, content, and creating content.
How can real estate professionals utilize “tips” on foursquare effectively?
Gallo: Think about your core mission as a real estate agent. You want to communicate what it’s like to live in a certain area. That goes beyond the four walls of a house. Foursquare is simply an extension of what real estate agents have always done offline and it allows them to share local tips specific to venues in their town.
Think of it as word-of-mouth marketing to your friends. You can follow/friend others on foursquare and your tips are pushed to them and vice versa. It’s fun, it’s helpful, and it’s really targeted. You’re targeting people who are already on their smartphones; you’re giving them your local expertise in the palm of their hands. Plus, it is often used in conjunction with Facebook and Twitter. More than 25 percent of foursquare users share their check-ins with friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter – think about how that can build your brand!
It’s good to be on this platform, and it doesn’t cost you anything. The only cost is if you want to offer badges – people can earn badges for different things on foursquare. Starbucks, for example, offers a barista badge. Badges are important to some brands, but for the average real estate agent or broker, probably not.
If the only thing you get out of this is that your clients and your peers see you a relevant, technically savvy, and socially aware, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Do you have advice for brokerage owners considering foursquare?
Gallo: There’s a REALTOR® who I quoted in the book named Lori Ordover of the Ordover Group in Miami. She deals with residential developments and she uses foursquare as an extension of her offline activities and brand. She holds open houses and sponsors iPads giveaway for those who checked-in to the open houses on a certain day. It keeps her top-of-mind and it’s an extension of her marketing efforts.
She also created a unique incentive to motivate her agents to sell condominiums. She offered a “mayor” special – which is granted to a person who checks into a certain location over a period of time. Her incentive was for any agent who is the “mayor” of a particular property on a certain date every month would get an extra 1 percent commission on a sale.
What was the first location you checked into?
Gallo: It was a coffee shop down the street called Tully’s Coffee Shop!
How do you respond to those apprehensive about using foursquare?
Gallo: You have to be sensible, just like you do with everything. You don’t have to accept everyone who follows you, and you have to be careful because your followers know where you’re checking-in. Secondly, you don’t have to check-in everywhere you go.