Module 3: Exploring the Potential of Foursquare and QR Codes to Promote Your Business

For this week’s social media assignment I checked out Foursquare and downloaded a free QR Code app to learn about location-based services (LBS). The blog post by Mike Lewis sums it up best with his tried and true acronym ‘C-H-E-C-K-I-N’ based on Carmine Gallo’s The Power of Foursquare: Connect with Your Brand, Harness New Fans, Engage Your Followers, Create Rewards, Knock-Out the Competition, Incentivize Your Customers and Never Stop Entertaining.

Single Biggest Learning from Foursquare

Using Foursquare I instantly found a list of local dining, tourism, and shopping and entertainment venues along with comments from others who have visited these businesses. I even had an option to ‘check-in’ with Facebook to see where my friends had visited. It is a great tool to explore any city. I was surprised to see what I had been missing out on.

After reviewing the features of Foursquare I can see how PR pros can use it as an affordable and scalable tool to promote their B2C retail clients. Integrating Foursquare with a client’s website and promoting it on Twitter and Facebook can help you connect with relevant audiences and boost your following.


Adding Foursquare to Your PR Plan

PR pros can harness the tips and special information found on Foursquare to promote a client’s business in several ways:

  1. Connect With Your Brand – Creating a Foursquare page to promote a company’s brand with a banner, description and link to client website, Twitter and Facebook accounts enables you to ‘check-in’ and share updates with your audience. Encouraging your followers to complete the ‘Leave Tips’ feature when they ‘check-in’ lets them share their positive and negative feedback. PR can ‘leave tips’ about other local businesses to position your client as an authority on a subject and raise brand awareness with relevant customers visiting similar locations. Promoting your brand without a hard marketing sell can build community for your client.
  2. Harness New Fans – Once your followers ‘check-in’ to a location, it can be shared with their friends on Foursquare and Facebook as well as their Twitter followers. This can influence new fans to do the same based on a friend’s recommendations. This is a great way for PR to reach new audiences.
  3. Engage Your Followers – When a customer checks into Foursquare and clicks on a venue they see information about the business along with who the ‘mayor’ is – a loyal customer who has the most ‘check-ins’ in the last 60 days. This message is shared with everyone who clicks on your business name and can be used to engage your followers and build trust in your business. PR pros can use Foursquare’s free analytics to learn more about their customers and target offers and rewards.


Do QR Codes Work?

While I’ve always thought the QR Code is a great way to engage smartphone users this was my first time trying it. I opted to download a free app for my iPhone. While there are lots of QR Code apps to choose from, both paid and free, it would be nice if there was an app that was compatible across all platforms including iOS, Android and Blackberry.

Unfortunately I did not have a lot of success using my QR Code app. My efforts to scan the QR Code on my turkey bacon product packaging didn’t work. Next, I scanned a magazine ad QR Code for Buff, a snowboarding headwear manufacturer, but it took me to the company’s European website instead of the North American one so the information wasn’t that useful to me. I finally found success scanning the QR Code for a Royal Distributing ad. At first the image was too small but with a little effort I was able to focus in and scan the code. I was excited to link directly to an informational company YouTube video.

Based on my experience I think the biggest challenge for PR pros endorsing QR Codes is helping businesses better use them to promote their venue, event or brand. In my case, I only had success 1 out of 3 times. It took more effort to scan the QR Code than the value I got in return. As a consumer I didn’t have a great experience but I am willing to try it again.


Module 2: Value of Promoted Tweets, Promoted Accounts and Promoted Trends

As a newbie to Twitter advertising tools I was interested to investigate the value of Promoted Tweets, Promoted Accounts and Promoted Trends to a PR campaign.


So what exactly are Promoted Tweets? If you choose this option your tweets will be available in Twitter search, where they are ‘interest targeted’ using key words. The idea is to send your most engaging Tweets to the most relevant users beyond your core followers. Research shows that over 95 per cent of users visited an online retail site after being shown a tweet; and almost 39 per cent of them purchased items (

Promoted Tweets can be purchased on a CPE (Cost-per-Engagement) basis. You choose your daily spending limit and both minimum and maximum bids. I recommend setting a low bid price of $0.50 with a daily maximum. You only pay your bid price when a user clicks on, retweets, replies to or favourites your Promoted Tweet. Based on their low cost you can affordably trial a Promoted Tweet. They seem to offer a higher click rate, and are a good way to drive a particular action via Twitter or increase awareness for your campaign.

If you have a long-term campaign goal Promoted Accounts are an ideal tool to build-up your list of followers. Using a CPF (Cost-per-Follower) basis, you make a bid ranging from $0.50 to $2.50 minimum up to $4.00 or $5.00 that you are willing to pay for each person who follows your account based on Twitter’s recommendations. Your Promoted Account will be displayed in the ‘Who to Follow’ section to users who are most likely to be interested in your account. With this option you only pay for new followers that you gain. Online feedback I read pointed out that Promoted Accounts don’t always offer the best value because you can’t modify the targeting of the ads and there is a risk that the people you are reaching aren’t necessarily interested in your product message.

If you have a product launch campaign than you may want to consider purchasing a Promoted Trend that will advertise your message atop the ‘trends’ list on Twitter home pages and apps. Twitter sells a single message a day, per territory. The cost to advertise will run you over $200,000 so this option depends on your client’s product and budget. Results show that Promoted Trends have a long-term impact with a 73 per cent rise in brand mentions on the day they run and three weeks after advertisers will still see an increase in mentions and retweets (

Whether or not you are an advocate of Twitter advertising will depend on your specific campaign goals and budget. If you are looking to grow your list of subscribers or increase revenues through a direct call to action than Twitter ads offer a low-cost and highly effective vehicle to share your message with a wider group of users in the shortest period of time.


Module 1: Thinking Faster with Social Media

How the social web has changed PR

The social web allows PR to communicate with our target audience in a meaningful way. Rather than talking at them we are able to have a conversation with them. The immediacy of the social web enables us to directly share our message with our stakeholders and customers – without having to rely on traditional media. However with these changes PR must be prepared to respond with greater immediacy. Ideally we should develop our client’s online presence before a crisis happens.

Public Relations fundamentals remain the same but the tools to achieve our goals and the ability to connect with our audience has opened new doors. According to recent data from Media Technology Monitor, two out of three Canadians use Social Media in one form or another.

New connections are created with cyber conversations

According to comScore’s 2013 Canada Digital Future in Focus Report, the top three Canadian social networking sites are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Navigating through the social media options and identifying how to effectively utilize them can seem overwhelming.  Think about how much Facebook has changed – it isn’t as popular with young people anymore who now favour Instagram to share ideas. Perhaps because it is more visual and allows them to better express their individuality. Initially PR used LinkedIn to support Human Resources recruitment efforts. In Canada, LinkedIn had the most significant growth, out of Twitter and Facebook from Q4 2011 to Q4 2012 based on total unique visitors. Since then there has been a shift and PR is now using LinkedIn for more than just attracting top talent. Companies are using this tool to engage followers to discuss projects, participate in surveys, and share corporate news and more.

In Canada, Twitter ranks second in popularity. Working in PR I’ve been asked by department managers to create a Twitter account for their division to increase brand visibility. Based on its popularity they see it as the ideal solution. What they fail to acknowledge is that every campaign requires a carefully planned strategy and a standalone tool may not be the sole solution.  I love it when someone is excited about social media and willing to embrace it. The challenge is to educate them – and myself – about how to utilize it effectively.

Whether your goal is to connect audiences, engage, influence or create a call to action I believe PR communicators will find success creating an integrated 360 communications plan that encompasses both social media and traditional methods to augment the visibility of their brand strategy.  Regardless of the platform you choose the fundamental principles remain the same. You have to know your audience, have access to relevant information to write compelling content; you have to be timely in your message and committed to listening. Most importantly you need to be patient and build a relationship with your stakeholders and customers.

Technology has always influenced how we share information and social media is making it more exciting to work in PR.