By Nicole Laurrari

Foursquare, the location social media app that many of us dismissed years ago for having too little marketing cache, has generated a lot of news coverage recently. Have you seen the parade of headlines?

First, Twitter announced it was partnering with Foursquare – to bring an accurate location-tagging feature to its 288 million monthly users.  Then Foursquare announced the launch of its own advertising platform called Pinpoint, which promises to target customers in the immediate area of a business with promotions and specially tailored offers for them.  And then came the rumors that search engine giant Yahoo! was preparing a 900 million dollar buy-out of Foursquare.  That’s a lot of activity for a business we’d eulogized as the MySpace of location marketing!

Large ventures like Twitter and Yahoo! don’t express this kind interest in a start-up like Foursquare unless they’ve seen something new and compelling each could benefit from. Listening to Foursquare’s founder, Dennis Crowley, speak about the marriage of location data and consumer behavior algorithms it’s becomes pretty clear see what they’re after. Foursquare is transforming from a social app – one where users fought  to “check in” at the local micro-brewery enough times to be considered the  establishment’s “mayor” – to a powerful location marketing tool that’s going to revolutionize how brick-and-mortar shops capture more foot traffic.

What’s all this mean to you as a small business? It’s a wake-up call of sorts. The groundwork is being laid out for a geo-local marketing platform that’s finally going to deliver what retailers have been clamoring for; targeted marketing that will result in store visits.  Foursquare, who’s collected a mountain of data over the years, now has the tools to turn that information into marketing gold. With the addition of Twitter users, that database is only going to grow richer in content.  If Yahoo! does indeed buy Foursquare, it will bring the power of search into play.  We’re looking at a geo-local perfect storm forming here!

Regardless how this finally shakes between the deal brokers, the message for you as a small business is pretty clear; if you aren’t playing in the geo-local marketing arena, you’d be well advised to look into it. 95% of mobile users rely on their devices for local search. It begs the question: How easily can mobile customers, both prospective and established ones, find your business? And what impression of your business do they get when they do?

If you haven’t yet explored geo-local marketing, here are some basic tips that will get your business up and running.

1) Be There On Square!:  First of all, be sure your business is listed on Foursquare.  If it’s not, add it.  If it’s there already, claim your listing.  You might also want to take an opportunity to see what your customers have already been saying about you.

2) Inform: Optimize your Foursquare listing by including pertinent information about your shop.  What you specialize in, your daily hours of operation, your website and social media links, and other important services and amenities your customers will appreciate knowing about.  Remember, many of these customers maybe be new to the area and seeking out your business services for the first time.

3) Show Off: Upload recent photos of your business, menu items, machinery, latest projects, office space, employees etc. – so that users can quickly understand what your business is about and determine if it’s the service they are looking for.

4) Plan Ahead: Brainstorm social media campaigns designed specifically for mobile customers who find your location on their mobile device. This can include special discounts, coupons or unique perk for checking in.

Eventually, the partnerships Fourquare is working on today will lead to advertising packages and marketing tools that will bring qualified customers onto your sales floor. Be ready for that. Begin now to explore options with your marketing person or ad agency to develop a plan to start leveraging the local foot traffic that passes by your business every day.

Nicole Larrauri is managing partner of EGC Group, one of NY’s fastest growing marketing and digital agencies. Follow her at @Nicole_Larrauri or @egcgroup.