How to: Write Foursquare tips on behalf of brands with multiple locations

Ghostwriting blog posts, Facebook updates and tweets. I would have thought we’d covered this ground already, but so many brands opt to go this route. Why? Because it’s sometimes easier to “outsource” the content development work, freeing up corporate folks to spend more time in internal meetings and brainstorming sessions (lucky them, right?).

4SQ Whole Foods

Besides, if you’ve worked in the PR or communications industry for any length of time, aren’t you really saying “so what?” We’ve been ghostwriting materials for YEARS.

That corporate memo you received from the SVP of operations last week? Ghost-written.

The story on your corporate intranet from the CEO sharing his vision for the future of the firm in 2013? Ghost-written.

Or, what about that byliner in that industry publication written by your CMO? You guessed it. Ghost-written.

So, why should social media channels be any different. Let me answer that: They’re not.

But, let’s take it one step further now. What about ghost-writing content that *should be* entirely based on local knowledge? Content like Foursquare tips.

Many brands leave tips for consumers who check in at their stores on the mobile/social network. And, some of those brands are chains with franchises and locations all over the country. Check out Whole Foods’ Foursquare page.

Think the general managers of all the different Whole Foods locations wrote those tips? Probably not (just a guess). But, they may have had some input.

This brings us to the dilemma: How do you ghost-write Foursquare tips for a brand with locations scattered across the country?

I’ll give you a simple, 5-step process:

1–Ask local managers first

They may not have time (likely). They may not have a lot of input (less likely). But, it’s definitely worth a shot. Send a quick note to your local managers asking them for their favorite spots nearby in categories like: Restaurants, health clubs, coffee spots and movie theaters. Use that as the starting point for your tips.

2–Start with Google Maps

Input the address of the location you’re writing tips for into Google Maps. This will give you a map (duh). Use it to check what’s nearby the establishment. Best way to find that information and gather an initial list of spots for good tips. You can also use Google Places and input the address of the store you’re writing tips for. This will allow you to input “categories” into the search bar and find nearby establishments, too.

3–Cross-reference on Yelp

Take that list of potential tip locations you got on Google Maps and Google Places and start cross-referencing it on Yelp. This will give you more specific input and ideas for your tips. Does the restaurant have one night of the week where they offer an incredible special offer? Does the grocery story have an evening where they offer wine flights–something you can really only find at that specific grocery store? These are the kinds of tidbits you’re looking for by cross-referencing with Yelp.

4–Cross-reference again on Facebook

Again, you’re just looking for interesting offers, tidbits and feedback on the locations Facebook page. Make sure to check the business’ status updates–but don’t forget to check the comments and other fans’ posts to the wall. They’re usually full of great feedback you can put to good use in a Foursquare tip (not verbatim–just the idea).

5–Write, double-check and confirm locally

Given this dearth of information you now have, take a stab at writing the tips. Keep them short (remember, it’s Foursquare and mobile, so people don’t have time for much more than a quippy tip). And, have some fun with them. Then, make sure to double-check the locations. Make sure they’re still open (businesses close, after all). And finally, consider sending your tips back to the store manager to confirm the tips make sense. The last thing you want to do is post a tip that might come across as “hollow”.

Those are my ideas. If you’ve had to write Foursquare tips for a location that’s NOT near you, what tips would you give?

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