Lessons Learned From Foursquare Day:
Social Media Marketing Pearls


by Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD, FAAO

I’ve been using online marketing to promote my practice since we opened 5 years ago. In that time, Bright Eyes Family Vision Care has acquired a large email database, an attractive website, an active blog, and a strong Facebook, Twitter, and foursquare following. We have found that patients respond very well when we use these tools to support contests, such as our current UGLY GLASSES contest, or specific events, such as our recent trunk show.

However, none of the various online campaigns we’ve implemented have had such a reach or impact as Foursquare Day. Last year I wanted to hold a Foursquare event at Bright Eyes and was looking for the right day to do it. I wrote a blogpost suggesting April 16th and Foursquare Day was born. It has since garnered a tremendous amount of attention in the press and local governments, and foursquare itself. (You can read more about the history and results in an article just in the latest VisionMonday’s CLICK Newsletter.) Also, check out and learn more from a video about the Foursquare Day party posted on VM Web TV and here, below, featuring an interview with Foursquare’s founder, Dennis Crowley.

While Foursquare Day has been a global success, there are some lessons that apply to any optometrist or ECP who wishes to use social media to increase business. Think about these take-away points and try to implement the next time you utilize social media to support an event or campaign at your practice.

Find out what is hot
In 2009 my office held a very successful Tweetup to develop relationships with our patients who use Twitter and develop a higher profile in the social media community of Tampa. In 2010, we wanted to do something bigger and better. Knowing that Yelp and foursquare were both relatively new in Tampa, I did an online poll to see which service people thought were more widely used. Foursquare clearly was the local favorite, so that was the one I chose.

Keep it simple
When using social and mobile technology, people have tremendous amounts information in front of them and they get very good at filtering out anything that isn’t immediately interesting. By emphasizing the concept of “Foursquare Day is April 16th because 42 is 16”, foursquare users immediate got the joke, appreciating the nerdy humor. But even more importantly, because the 4/16 date was not random, they would remember it, and be able to share it with others easily from memory.

People like what they like
People as a rule are self-interested. Unless you ask them for a specific favor, which they may or may not do, they are generally motivated by activities they inherently enjoy or that provide some benefit for them. By keeping the emphasis on what patients are interested in and not on my practice, many more people became involved.

Don’t be afraid to delegate
As projects grow and take on a life of their own, they can become all-consuming for one person. Likewise, Foursquare Day would not have been nearly as successful if I had attempted to stay in control of all aspects of the event. By April 16, we had volunteers blogging, tweeting, organizing, making deliveries, and all kinds of other aspects.

Learn about this year’s 4SqDay (4-16-11) in New York City, including an interview with Foursquare’s founder, Dennis Crowley.

Work all available channels
The internet is an extremely diverse place, filled with almost unlimited groups and ways to communicate. I originally proposed the Foursquare Day idea on my practice blog. Blogs are great for expressing ideas, but they are not as social as Facebook, so a page was created there. For even faster spreading of ideas, a Twitter account was created. Finally, to really give the idea permanence, the website 4sqday.com was created. It may not be necessary for an ECP to use all of these social media tools for single event, but think about who you are trying to reach and how they communicate.

Involve local businesses

One of the assets of Foursquare Day was that it appealed to both consumers and local businesses. Users like the fun and businesses appreciate the free word-of-mouth advertisement. As with any event, tying in neighboring businesses will strengthen the local community and increase turnout and interest. This could be as little as getting donations of door prizes from local shops or hosting the event at a local restaurant.

Be flexible
When working online, you never know what opportunities may come up. As Foursquare Day grew in interest, decisions needed to be made quickly. What seemed unnecessary one day became important the next. We were willing to try different strategies, hoping that some of them would be pan out.

Don’t lose focus
Unfortunately, with all of the international attention to Foursquare Day, there was a downside. I did get distracted working with people from all over and did not promote the event locally as much as I had intended. We did have people come to Bright Eyes specifically for Foursquare Day to take advantage of the Foursquare Day sale that we had to support the event. However, it was not a successful as it could have been had we maintained our usual effort of promoting the event directly to our patients.

Foursquare Day has been a lot of fun. And it continues to be amazing. People are already talking about the amazing conferences, concerts, and parties they are planning for 4/16/2012! And while it doesn’t directly pertain to eyes and vision, it has gotten optometry a lot of attention lately. So don’t be afraid to put your next office event on the internet. You never know what might happen!

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, he helped create "Peripheral Vision" which educates eyecare professionals about social media. Dr. Warford was a speaker at the first CLICK Conference last year. He is the chair 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 is a graduate of the Illinois College of Optometry and is an active volunteer in many charitable organizations. He founded Foursquare Day in March 2010.