An Idea for Banks and Credit Unions to Use Foursquare

Banks and credit unions are flocking to Facebook and Twitter in droves to begin engaging customers in dialogue, or for those just getting their feet wet, to launch listening campaigns. One relatively young social networking tool that some banks are starting to experiment with is Foursquare. Since some of our clients have asked me for ideas recently on how they could use it, I'm going to share an idea I saw North Shore Bank in Wisconsin use.

If you're not familar with Foursquare, it's a social network, designed primarily for mobile devices, to allow people to check-in at business, recreational and similar physical establishments. Using the GPS capabilities of mobile smart phones and devices such as iPods (it somewhat works with WiFi connections, too), the application can determine a user's physical location and show him or her a list of restaurants, businesses and other check-in points around his current location. Via the application's user interface, the user simply selects the physical location, say Hatchy's Bar, and selects a "check-in" button.

In Foursquare's own words, here is how they describe the service:

Think of foursquare as an "urban mix tape." We'll help you make lists of your favorite things to do and let you share them with friends. Think beyond your standard review - we're looking less for "The food here is top notch" and more for "Go to Dumont Burger and try the most amazing Mac and Cheese ever." Foursquare will keep track of the things you've done, help you create To-Do lists and even suggest new experiences to seek out.

As you check-in around the city, you'll start finding tips that other users have left behind. After checking-in at a restaurant, it's not uncommon to unlock a tip suggesting the best thing on the menu. Checking-in at a bar will often offer advice on what your next stop should be. Every tip you create is discoverable by other users just by checking-in.

One honor that a user can earn is to become the mayor of a location. In order to become mayor, a user must check-in at that location more than any other user. Other people who check-in at a location can see the first name and photo of the user who is the mayor of that location.

Alright, that's enough background information on Foursquare, now on to the idea.

Today I saw that North Shore Bank in Wisconsin is offering a promotion to all mayors of their branch locations. If you are the mayor, when you visit the branch you just need to show a teller your mobile device that lists you as the mayor of that branch. North Shore will then mail you a $5.00 Subway gift card. That's cool, but I'd like to see our clients go even further than that, so I'm suggesting that you take that up a notch.

I would suggest that branch managers offer to treat mayors to lunch. That's right, choose a date and physically dine with your mayor. Let's make a few assumptions about the mayors:

  1. If these people are using Foursquare, they are likely tech-savvy
  2. They likely belong to other social networks and are active in them. Heck, they may even have an active blog.
  3. They likely have some influence amongst their friends, especially those who may not be as tech-savvy
  4. They, like most people, probably appreciate free lunches
  5. They’ll likely tell others about their free lunch and give you a mention on Facebook, Twitter, their blog or all of the above

For the cost of a lunch and an hour out of your day (you were going to eat anyway), you'll get to pick their brain about ideas for making better use of social media, improving your products and who knows what else. Assuming the food and conversation was good, you'll gain a fan who will likely introduce your bank brand to dozens, hundreds or even possibly thousands of friends and friendlies. The real value from this is the additional insight you’ll gain from interacting with your customer one on one.

Oh, by the way, mayors do change, so you should be able to reap these benefits repeatedly. In fact, take Foursquare out of the picture entirely and simply commit to interacting more with your customers and you’ll likely gain far more benefit in an hour a day of interaction than five hours a day wooing Foursquare users.

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A blog by InetSolution about programming, security, design and marketing for banks, credit unions and e-commerce.

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