Foursquare Day 2011 (4/16) was bigger, better and bolder (check out that #4SQDay badge!) than in 2010. With over 3MM check ins to the service that day Foursquare experienced their best day ever and celebrated with multiple parties all across the globe. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg even got in on the action by officially declaring 4/16 (or 4/4^2) as Foursquare Day in New York City. Brands and merchants were quick to jump onboard the media promotion and many offered check in specials to drive traffic into their stores and to reward their loyal customer base. But what about companies and organizations without traditional consumers? How can these groups (healthcare offices, financial services firms, municipal services, corporate offices and more) utilize Foursquare and benefit from the increased traffic and usage of the platform to help drive their own goals and messaging? For this post I’ll focus on healthcare and will expand to other groups in future postings.
Wait, what is Foursquare?
Foursquare can be simply defined as a geo-location based platform which allows users to check in to a venue (a la a traditional hotel check in concept, just virtually) via their smartphone or other enabled device. Once checked in the user can be prompted with tips, to-do’s, or several types of specials/discounts for the check in activity or for becoming mayor of a venue (a la traditional top-tier frequent traveler program status). There are many resources extolling the benefits of Foursquare for retail and other consumer-oriented businesses; however, the real power of the platform (and what is the focus of this post) comes in the utilization of the data from people and companies within your Foursquare network to offer relevant information to you upon checking in. Think of this as a note you’d receive upon checking in to a hotel or a new office where someone has called to leave important information for you. Instead of physically receiving this tip in person you receive it virtually via your smartphone in the exact moment it is most relevant. Sure, the mayor specials are nice (I’m the mayor of several venues, see my profile here and challenge me for mayor!) but the platform has many more advantages.
Foursquare and Healthcare
For healthcare organizations like hospitals, pharmacies, physician practices and more who are nervous or quite frankly scared to join the social media space Foursquare can be a great way to get started. In fact, the venues likely already exist on the platform and chances are you have people already checking in to them. Go ahead and check, I’ll wait.
Now that you’ve found some healthcare related venues on Foursquare (NOTE if you have not found some or skipped that part, I recommend you actually do it if you have the app on your phone or are registered on the website) we need to understand how to utilize the platform to empower the users who, like you, have found these venues and are potentially checking in to them. As I mentioned earlier the real power of the platform comes in the crowdsourced tips and to-do’s from the people or companies/brands in your network. For example: when I check in to locations around town I am presented with tips from my friends (or the venue itself) that are relevant and specific to that venue (or another venue in close proximity) that either offer me advice or suggestions. I might be prompted to check out a new vegan menu item from a friend who has left a tip at a restaurant, or ask for a certain room number when checking in to a hotel because a friend has said that that number series has the best views or I might be presented with a recommendation to check out an alternate venue since a friend gave it a great tip!
This tips and suggestion engine can be very powerful in the healthcare space if properly utilized. Take hospitals: the use-case here would be to add helpful tips to people who are checking in (on the app) to make their experience a little more pleasant. You could offer up some tips for times when the cafeteria might be less busy or might make a special offer on food items at end of day, you could provide some tips for parking or for navigating the complex or you might offer a special number, email or website for users to contact if they need help. You could also consider offering up recommendations for nearby restaurants that might offer deals or delivery, maybe a quick rundown of where to find common needs (bathrooms, water fountains, vending) or even a tip on how to make sleeping in that chair just a little more comfortable for the night. Whatever the tip as long as you are offering a suggestion to improve the life of one user of the service you are making an impact.
For physician offices the use-cases differ but the general concept is the same. You might offer a tip on how to talk to your doctor (have notes, be clear and direct, etc), why it is important to give updated insurance information or maybe even quick bios on the physicians. You could even help patients understand potentially busier office hours or maybe the best time to call to get Rx refills. For pharmacies the same use-cases generally apply and you could also offer up other tips like the closest 24-hour pharmacy if the patient needs assistance immediately, a reminder about automated Rx refill or readiness alerts (texts, emails, phone calls) or maybe the best times to avoid long lines at the counter. The overarching point here is to be creative and to add value.
Explore the possibilities
Go create a Foursquare profile for your company, office and claim your venue(s). Once you’ve done that you should start advertising your Foursquare page just like you do your Facebook and Twitter sites (assuming you have them) and have people start following you on the service. Following you on Foursquare is different from Facebook and Twitter in that the communication is technically only one-way in realtime (you to the user) via the aforementioned tips and to-do’s. Once your account is established start creating some tips and to-do’s so that people can find them when they check in to your venue or when they are exploring venues to visit. A user does not have to follow you to read your tips; however, the tip will not be pushed to them upon check in unless they are your friend or follow you.
Foursquare can also be yet another way to engage the audience visiting your venues and to read the comments, tips they have left for others. You could even find that some people have left reviews for your venue on the service itself. You should view this information in much the same way as you would reviews on a website or on a Facebook page or Twitter feed and act accordingly. I’ll discuss social media engagement strategies in a later post.
Feel free to explore Foursquare as a regular user first (in fact, I encourage that if you are not a regular user). If you are new to the platform go out there and try to earn a mayorship or 10 and get involved. Start seeing the power of the platform and then take the ideas presented here and turn them into workable strategies for you at your office to help the people you provide services to daily. Again, be creative, be involved, and be relevant.
Do you have other ideas for utilizing Foursquare in the healthcare space? Have any great use-cases or examples of companies already participating? Feel free to leave them in the comments here for others to learn from!