April 16: Keep Up the Fun and Connect With Patients on 4sqDay

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By Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD, FAAO
Bright Eyes Vision Care


TAMPA, Fla.—Today is April 16, 2012, the third Annual International Foursquare Day. Frequently shortened to “4sqDay,” the day is observed by millions of social media fans around the world as their “first global social media holiday.”

As the founder of 4sqDay, I get to have conversations with interesting folks, from China to Italy to India to Lativa and of course all around the U.S. I’ve helped mom-and-pop restaurants and large companies like IKEA, Fiji Water, and McDonald’s promote their businesses, and even Mayor’s offices and Chambers of Commerce promote local business.

How did all of this come about? Through the serendipitous power of social media.

In 2009, I became enamored with the location-based service application, foursquare. I wondered how I could use this new technology to promote my practice and I blogged that since 4 squared equals 16, 4/16/2010 would be a perfect “Foursquare Day” event at the office. The idea was infectious and by the first 4sqDay, 15,000 in 300 communities around the world participated. In 2011, it was even bigger with over 3 million foursquare check ins and over 1,000 events world-wide. This year promises to be even bigger.

Undoubtedly, 4sqDay is cool. But it also takes a lot of time and effort to organize, and it would be easy to wonder if this time is well spent. There are three reasons that make it worthwhile:

  • It is fun. The amount of sheer creativity that people around the world put into their 4sqDay events is amazing and I enjoy helping them. I’ve formed great friendships with amazing people and despite the fact that foursquare is a location-based app, these relationships are totally independent of geography. In fact, most of these people I have not met in person.
  • Generate sales. Every year since the beginning, my practice has held a “4sqDay Sale.” While the event has grown well beyond my practice, we do publicize the sale via our social channels and it does bring in patients.
  • Great SEO. Every year I get interviewed by various people in the media and blogosphere about how 4sqDay started. It always intrigues them that an optometrist started something so techy. Since many of these pieces include my name and links to my practice, it bolsters the value of my website and blog in the eyes of search engines like Google. That makes me easier to find by prospective patients.

However, in the social media world, change happens quickly. What is white-hot one moment may be forgotten in a year. During the first 4sqDay, foursquare was in a heated battle with Gowalla for dominance of the location-based market. Now Gowalla is no more, having been purchased by Facebook.

What does it take to keep something like 4sqDay going, which admittedly caters to a niche audience with a short attention span? Here are some ways that I have found to keep the event fresh:

  • Continuity: Even though the actual day of celebration is April 16, we made efforts to keep things going in the “off season.” We came up with the slogan “Make every day a foursquare day” so that we could transition the 4sqday brand from a single annual event to a blog that covers the people who use foursquare. This has provided continuous content to engage people and keep 4sqDay top of mind.
  • Tradition: Over the three years of 4sqDay, we have developed activities that have become familiar for users. These are both nostalgic for long-time observers of the day and fun for the new participants. One example is Fake4sqday, a day when people post made-up foursquare check ins such as visiting the moon or oval office. It is simple, creative, and helps participants engage with the event.
  • New Blood: The entire organization of 4sqDay is composed of volunteers who participate because it is fun and rewarding. But this also means that the very people that make it happen will lose interest and move on. Just as it is necessary to hire and train optical staff, it is important to identify people who are interested in taking on leadership roles and providing them with the tools and information to be successful.
  • Expansion: As with event organizers, it is important to reach out to new users. Since 2011, there has been an explosion of international users. We make a special effort to reach out to them and help maker their first 4sqDay special.
  • Adaptation: As stated above, in the social media world change is constant. Each year that we have organized 4sqDay we have taken advantage of the new tools that people are using. In 2010, we spent dozens of hours creating a custom website and blog. In 2011, we effectively used Meetup.com and YouTube to connect with foursquare fans. This year, Pinterest is the white-hot social application and we are using it to simply and effectively promote both the history and current celebration.

This year at my office, Bright Eyes Family Vision Care, we have decided to run a 32% discount on glasses purchases with any foursquare check in on 4sqDay. Why 32%? Because it is 16 X 2 and it seemed like a good way to extend the geekiness of the day. We will promote it via the usual social channels such as our blog, Facebook, and Twitter. Hopefully it will be successful.

Others optometrists have embraced 4sqDay. Mark Leary, OD, of New Bern Family Eye Care was one of the first to offer specials on April 16, during 2010. Scott Tomaino, OD, of Iverson-Tomasino-Goerss Eyecare Associates is offering specials this year. Edward Melman, OD, has adopted the day as the office annual anniversary bash. The office will feature great prizes of frames and contact lenses. Dr. Melman has done this each year since 2010. “It generates a lot of good will and recognition that we wouldn't have otherwise,” he says.

So Happy Foursquare Day! It has been an interesting experiment that has included both cutting-edge technology and traditional eyecare marketing. Enjoy the day. Take a moment to explore your city and the social media scene.

Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD, FAAO, Bright Eyes Family Vision Care, Tampa, Fla., is an optometrist specializing in the vision of infants and children. A social media evangelist, "Dr. Nate" has been a speaker at two CLICK Conferences: September 2011 and September 2010. He blogs to eyecare professionals about social media and practice management at Review of Optometric Business. He is a member of the social media committee of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development and is chair of the Florida Optometric Association's Children's Vision Committee. He founded Foursquare Day in March 2010.