By Kristin Rabas, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

The growing popularity of social media globally is also leading to a boom in social media tools. The most popular are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. Another tool that is quickly growing in popularity is foursquare. It hit the social media scene about two years ago and since its launch has gained more than 6.5 million users worldwide.

Foursquare is a location-based application that encourages users to “check-in” from wherever they are using their smartphone. Users can see where their friends have checked-in, write reviews and receive tips about businesses, find nearby businesses, receive special deals and more.

At first, businesses were slow to embrace this application because of its “game-like” features. As a game, the user collects virtual badges and points for checking-in at different locations. If you check-in to the same location more than any other person, you become the “mayor” of that location. What does being mayor mean? Nothing really, it’s just a game.

However, foursquare is more than a game. It can be a useful tool to attract new customers, offer promotions and discounts to consumers and for businesses to monitor what is being said about their products or services.

Similar to a rewards card that you punch every visit, businesses can attract customers by offering them special discounts when they check in. It’s a great way to build customer loyalty. For example, the following foursquare promotion took place in the Green Bay area; Check in at Aerie in Bay Park Square and unlock a 15% discount toward your next merchandise purchase.

Monitoring what is being said about your business or product is another benefit. Every time you check-in, you have the option to review tips about that business or write your own review. As social media grows and people become more and more dependent on peer reviews and word of mouth marketing, these types of reviews and tips can serve as a great marketing tool or a way to learn how to improve your business or product. From getting comments about weekly specials to learning about bad service, foursquare has endless potential for connecting with customers. It’s almost like a virtual comment box!

Personally, I use foursquare and I love it. Do you currently use foursquare? What advantages or disadvantages do you see?