In an age of online bargains and social media, some Ocala businesses are using the social media service Foursquare to offer promotions and deals.
Businesses like Soapy's Car Wash and Gamers Edge use Foursquare to offer promotions to local patrons, who primarily use the service on their smartphones.
Often overshadowed by other popular social media sites like Facebook and the online coupon service Groupon, Foursquare is built in the same vein, but offers some additional features.
What sets Foursquare apart is that it allows users to announce their locations -- whether it be a restaurant, store or other landmark -- to friends. Users "check in" at certain locations; Foursquare awards points and badges and tracks all of a user's check-ins. Here's how it works:
Using the Foursquare mobile app or website, a person can sign in with his or her Facebook account information or create an account using his or her email.
Once the user is signed in, the service then analyzes his or her location and gives the user the option to "check in" at that particular site, announcing to their friends where they are.
The "check-in" can also be linked and shared on other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Foursquare aggregates a list of most businesses in the area and, based on a user's location, makes suggestions for restaurants, stores and other businesses the user could visit. This component of Foursquare is similar to Yelp, another online business search engine that lists businesses and aggregates user reviews for them.
Foursquare is a free service for businesses and users.
With Foursquare's mobile app, businesses are offering special deals and promotions for patrons who "check in." These specials are listed on the mobile app.
For instance, Soapy's offers a free tire-shine when a Foursquare user checks in for the fifth time, or $1 off with every check-in.
"We've had it in use for about six months and we have had about 100 people check in using it," said Holly Allen, an office manager at Soapy's.
Gamers Edge, a local video game store, offers a buy one game, get the second game 50 percent off deal for users who check in for the first time.
Other local business offers include a free conditioning treatment upon a first check in at Austin James Hair Studio on East Fort King Street and 10 percent off an entire purchase at Uptown Pretty Woman Consignment and Boutique on Southwest 10th Street.
Some business owners say the service hasn't really caught on with locals.
"Not as much (Foursquare response) as I would hope," said Ralph Shollenberger, owner of Gamers Edge.
Shollenberger said he gets more customers who have looked at promotions posted on the business' Facebook page than on Foursquare.
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