I was prepping for my Tuesday night class the other day, and I realized that I have been remiss.

Yeah, I’ve talked a bit about Geo-Locating, specifically FourSquare, but really, not as much I should have.

Geo-Locating can be a really powerful tool for those of you that have physical, bricks-and-mortar businesses. If you, like me, have a virtual business, you can still use them, but they won’t be as useful.

There are three major services:

The last two are the most popular here in North America.

Basically, they work like this: when you are at a physical location, you virtually “check in” to that location using your smartphone and often an app, although you can also access them via your web browser. They work because smartphones generally have GPS, so when you go to “check in,” your GPS knows where you are, and immediately provides you with a list of potential locations that you can “check in” to. When you “check in,” you can add other people, if for example you are there for a meeting, either business or personal, and you can also upload a photo. You can then share your location via the social network (FourSquare or Facebook Places) and also via Twitter and Facebook, so if your friends see where you are and if they want to connect with you, they can.

FourSquare also includes a contest component, giving you badges for unlocking new levels and the person who “checks in” to one location the most times in a month gets to be the “Mayor” of that location.

If you have a bricks-and-mortar business, using Geo-Locating can really help you to boost traffic to your business, and to reward your most loyal customers. Both services allow you to create special deals for your customers. For example, if you “check in” somewhere on FourSquare, it shows you “specials nearby.” These can range from free stuff to discounts, but in this incredibly competitive market, anything that gives you an advantage could be a boost. Facebook recently introduced a new feature called “Deals” that mimics this.

Here’s a word of warning on Geo-Locating. Sure, it’s fun. But use it wisely. Part of my issue with it (other than the fact that it could make it really easy for stalkers to find you) is that often people just “check in” to a location, they don’t say why they are there, or who they are meeting, adding to the “noise” of social media.  I once unfollowed someone because they went for a walk in their neighborhood, and “checked in” to every business they passed. Don’t be that guy. I use FourSquare fairly sparingly, usually when I  can connect it in some way to my business. For example, if I’m going to the opening night of one of my shows, I’ll “check in” with a note about that.

And here’s a very silly video I made about Geo-Locating.

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Rebecca Coleman

Social Media Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Author, Teacher, Trainer. Passionate foodie, mom to Michael, fueled by Americanos. I love my bike. Soon-to-be cookbook author. Localvore with a wanderlust.

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