I’ve been a skeptic about Foursquare but this guest post from small business-owner Helen Wilkinson (above) describes a new perspective on a monetization activity with benefits for all. Enjoy!

At precisely 7.52 pm on August 12, 2010, a hearty cheer rose up from our small tea shop on the south coast of England.

“It’s a swarm, it’s a swarm!” people shouted, merrily clinking glasses of champagne.

Not just a swarm … but the first successful ‘swarm party’ ever in the UK, as the Press Association reported the next day (adding enthusiastically that the Foursquare event significantly boosted sales during the hour people checked in at our little shop, Metrodeco).

“So what?” you might ask. “How can one day’s good profits make a solid foundation for business growth? And who cares whether it was the first UK swarm party? We’ve been holding them in the States for months.”

Well, I think the answers to those questions should interest businesses everywhere.

First, the fact that Foursquare swarm parties are now happening here in the UK – and there are suddenly many more planned across the country – has a global significance that should not be underestimated. When we tentative Brits embrace a social technology and it spreads beyond the early adopters, history shows it is probably well on its way to becoming a multinational phenomenon and is here to stay. This is exactly how it went with YouTube, Facebook and Twitter: first success in the US, then in the UK, then years of world domination.

Watch during the next few months as Foursquare ratchets up millions of users in Australia, Estonia, Iran, South Korea and many other nations. I’ll eat one of my teapots if I’m wrong.

Second, I think you will find that businesses benefit from swarm parties way beyond the money that they make on that day.

At Metrodeco, we’re certainly not measuring success by looking at the bottom line for this single month. Yes, we doubled sales on the day of the swarm and in the run up added maybe 15 new repeat customers as a direct consequence — a result not to be sniffed at when you’re a small business.

But the real Holy Grail of any business’s digital strategy is to influence the influencers so they become brand evangelists. And this is because all the research shows that customers who come to you because of word of mouth are likely to be more loyal than those who are there because of traditional marketing programs.

We think we achieved this conversion.

How? This is key: Social media influencers in any area love meeting each other face-to-face, hence the success of ‘tweet-ups’. But what a Swarm Party now adds to this mix is the opportunity for people to collaborate in a joint endeavour, to achieve something together, to stand shoulder-to-shoulder and say “We are a community and we work better as a whole than as individuals”.

If half of the 50+ people at your party feel this sense of success through co-operation, you’re going to have to do something pretty bad to lose their good will. And that will probably mean months, if not years, of good word-of-mouth marketing. This, of course, leads to closer relationships with your customers, a bigger and better reputation, greater buzz and, eventually, more money!

What do you think? Is swarming in your future?

Helen Wilkinson is the co-proprietor of Metrodeco, a tea room in Brighton, UK.

{grow} Community Note: Coincidentally, yesterday Knoxville publicist Zane Hagy staged a similar event at a local pizza restaurant.  To attract a Foursquare swarm, they offered free cheese pizzas all day. Well, 2,603 free pies later, they had their swarm, and had also doubled their average sales for the day. You can read about it HERE.

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