How to Encourage Local Business Check-Ins

As a small business owner, you know your online reputation is important.  But did you know that it isn’t just influenced by the content you put on the web? Customer comments and reviews on social media can also carry an incredible weight.

Just how much influence do online reviews have?

According to a 2014 survey, over 88% of consumers trust online reviews just as much as a personal recommendation.

Although providing incentives for customers to write positive reviews is frowned upon (and sometimes not allowed), providing incentives to get your customers to come into your business and check-in can open the door for positive word-of-mouth, and inevitably lead to good online reviews. For example, if a customer checks in using the Yelp Mobile app, they will be prompted the next time they log in to write a review about your location. It’s an easy way to get reviews without asking for them directly.

Are check-ins really that important?

The answer is yes. Simply put, social media check-ins act as a free form of word-of-mouth marketing. By checking in at your business, customers are telling their friends and family that they have been here, and essentially promoting your business to their trusted circle.

Not only do check-ins increase brand recognition, but they also improve your business’s exposure on search engines. For instance, Foursquare lets search engines know what is popular and relevant in that area, and your business could be one of those places.

What kind of incentives should my business offer?

There are many different ways you can give back to those who check in at your business.

An easy way to encourage check-ins on Yelp is by offering a simple discount for those who have checked-in repeatedly. Or with Foursquare, you can offer check-in deals for individuals, the “mayor” of your location, or groups of a specific number of people.

Most networks will allow you to see the results of your check-in deals so don’t limit yourself to just one incentive on a single network. Try running deals on multiple networks to see which ones are used most often. But remember, check-ins (regardless of the incentive) don’t always equal positive reviews.

How do I encourage people to take advantage of the incentives?

Wondering how to get the word out? For most customers, all you need to do is remind them to check in. Here are a few ways you can increase the odds they will take the small but extra effort to check in at your location:

  1. Use Existing Marketing – Your social media outlets are the best place to direct people to check in. Don’t forget the importance of your website and blog (if you have it) to promote the incentive as well.
  2. Post Signs – Free stickers and window clings from FourSquare and Facebook that you can post on cash registers and entry doors are a great reminder for your customers to check-in. They’re also easy to swap out in case you decide to change your deal.
  3. Offer Rewards & Discounts – A simple gift or discount for those who check in are more than enough to encourage customers to do so. Also, consider offering some kind of loyalty reward for those customers who check in the most.
  4. Promote from Within – One easy way to get others to check-in is to have your employees participate. Their friends and family members will see the check-ins and consider doing so themselves.
  5. Partner with a Charity – Choose a local charity that you believe in and offer to support that business in return for every check-in. It could be as simple as helping promote the cause, or even channeling a small portion of sales into a donation.
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