Foursquare isn't just for check-ins anymore – it's moved far beyond mayors and badges and expanded it's location-based social network into a strong platform and local search engine. A lot of online marketers don't realize how powerful a presence on the social network can be. It's not even just for brick-and-mortar businesses anymore.

So, even though we've briefly blogged about Foursquare for businesses before, we didn't go into nearly enough detail and several new features have been added.

So for the next several weeks, the "Mobile Monday" column will look at the different ways brands and businesses can establish a presence on Foursquare.

Today, we'll simply explain the basics of Foursquare for business and how different types of businesses can use the platform appropriately.

The two different offerings Foursquare offers for businesses are the Foursquare Merchant platform for brick-and-mortar businesses like restaurants and retail stores, and brand tools for companies without a physical location for customers to visit.

Foursquare Merchant Platform

The Foursquare Merchant Platform is for businesses with a physical location that customers can visit and check-in at. The platform offers tools to get discovered by Foursquare users and more people walking in. The first step is to claim your business's venue on Foursquare. There is a verification process to make sure that the person requesting to claim the venue is actually qualified to be the venue's manager.

Once you've claimed your venue, you will be able to:

  • Access analytics – The analytics dashboard shows you how many customers are checking in to your business, how many are sharing those check-ins to Facebook and Twitter, what tips people are leaving at your venue, photos taken with check-ins, and who your most loyal customers are. What you do with this data will depend on what your goals are. Beginning January 28th, businesses will also have access to even more data.
  • Create updates – Businesses can create local status updates that will appear to nearby users that have looked at your venue's page or checked-in to the location before. Updates can be about company news, an upcoming event, product/service information, or promoting a special.
  • Offer specials – Attract new customers and reward your existing ones by offering different discounts and rewards. Specials for new customers include friend specials, swarm specials, flash specials, newbie specials, and check-in specials. To reward existing customers, you can offer loyalty specials or mayor specials. For more information on each type of special, refer to our previous Foursquare for business post.
  • Advertise – Last summer, Foursquare began rolling out advertising options to businesses. Companies can pay to promote an update or special, which are displayed in the 'Explore' tab to users who either have friends who have checked-in to your location, have added your venue to a list, or have checked-in to similar places.

Foursquare Brand Platform

If your fans or customers can't come to your physical location, then you can go find them with Foursquare's brand platform. Brand pages can also manage venues, which is helpful for companies with several locations. Creating a brand page on Foursquare is an additional way to reach your fans while they're on the go. You can suggest where to go, what to do, and develop your brand's personality. Do this by:

  • Leaving tips – Brands can leave tips on venue pages for their fans and the visitors of the venue. Think of what is most relevant to your fans at different locations and leave tips and suggestions at those places that are consistent with your brand's voice. Since it can be seen by anyone that visits the venue's page, it's also an opportunity for more visibility on the network.
  • Check-in to places – While you cannot check-in to a venue you manage, you can check-in as your brand page to notable places and events that your fans will be interested in. Check-in and leave a comment at places and events where your fans will also be or that give insight into your company.
  • Create lists – Lists are an excellent way to curate tips and venues to act as a tour guide for your fans. You can create lists of places to go, make a list of all of your locations, etc. You can organize them by tip, by location, by category, or whatever your creative self can come up with!
  • Offer specials for events – If brands manage any locations, they can still offer specials at events. If a brand wants to offer a special for an event at a location they do not manage, they can coordinate with the venue's manager to try to work something out.

Look out for more information on using Foursquare for branding purposes for the next few Mondays. If you have any suggestions or request for this series, leave them in the comments or tweet them to @eZangaInc!