This post was originally written by Lesley Latham.

Google Places, Yahoo Local, Foursquare, Groupon. We all hear these words. And while many owners and managers don’t understand what they are and how they can be utilized, it doesn’t mean they should be ignored.

What’s Out There

Location-based services, like the ones listed above, come in many different shapes and sizes. Search engine local services like Google Places is one category. Check-in services like Foursquare are in another. Local deals like Groupon or LivingSocial provide daily specials.

The web can be a complicated place with a vast array of applications and websites popping up, infiltrating these categories, at any given moment. It’s hard not to know all of them.  Well, have no fear! I’m going to help you sort it all out.

Search Engine Local Services

Search engine local services are not usually found on mobile devices – with the exception of Google maps for navigational purposes. Each one of these services ties in with their particular map service like Google, Yahoo or Bing. You find your facility’s map listing (or create a new listing if it doesn’t already exist) and then claim it as the business owner. Put simply, you are able to edit and control the information. Google Places allows you to add additional advertising and coupons through your listing, but the emphasis is on search results and not specials or deals.

Check-In Services

Foursquare is arguably the most popular of the Check-In Services. These services are mobile focused and have a presence in the smart phone arena. I ran down a good chunk of my iPhone battery by testing each of these services that I was unfamiliar with to see how similar they were to Foursquare and Facebook Places, both of which I use religiously. (For those of you who speak Foursquare lingo, I am proud to say I am mayor of our office.)

The idea behind these apps is that whenever you walk into a business or go to a different place, you “check-in.” Checking in let’s your selected group of friends know where you are and what you’re doing. For many of the applications and services, businesses are able to claim their listings and add specials, deals, or any kind of discount for customers who choose to check-in.

You can also achieve awards for checking in or completing certain tasks. For example, when you check-in with the application SCVNGR, you are asked to complete a specific task. When you complete said tasks, you get badges, points, or reality-based rewards. At its heart, check-in services are a social media game with a location-based twist. They are especially fun when you have a large group of friends participating.  

Local Deals Services

Finally, but not least by any means, Local Deals Services offer discounts and coupons by location. They are all nationwide services, but location specific. Because I live in the Kansas City area, I’ll only see deals for my area. I won’t see a special going on in Chicago or a free hot dog give-away in Seattle. The deal changes every day and each deal can range from a 50 percent off laser hair removal to $25 off laser tag.

Some platforms only work if enough people purchase your deal. If they don’t, you could lose money. But if you are in a popular market and the season is right and the deal is good, you could end up turning quite a profit.

What to Focus On and Why

It’s tedious and time consuming to focus on every single new Local Based Service that you hear about. Currently, there are a few that I would recommend paying attention to and just keeping an eye on the rest in case they seem to move up into the big leagues.

  • Google Places : Currently Google has the largest market share for search and the only search engine with a mobile maps application.

  • Facebook Places : It’s the largest social media website with over 600 million users.

  • Foursquare : With over 7 million users, it beats its closest competition, Gowalla, by almost 6.5 million users.

  • Groupon : Groupon serves over 500 markets in 44 countries. BuyWithMe and Yipit each serve less than 35 markets.

  • LivingSocial : Not quite the size of Groupon, but still much larger than BuyWithme or Yipit, LivingSocial serves over 250 markets in the United States, Canada, UK, Ireland and Australia.

How to Do It

All of these services have simple step-by-step processes on how to sign up your business. Keep in mind that for most of these, you will need to already have an account. I would recommend having a business account for each.

  • Google Places : To learn how to claim your Places listing, visit its User Guide. On the left hand tabs, there is information about each aspect of Google Places.

  • Facebook Places : To claim your business, visit its Claiming Places Guide. Click on “How do I claim a Place I represent?”

  • Foursquare : To sign up as a Merchant, check out the Quick Start Guide. You can then click on “Search and claim your venue.”

  • Groupon : Take a look at its GrouponWorks site to learn more about how Groupon works for businesses and how to get featured.

  • LivingSocia l: Read through its Feature Your Business page to get started with your own deals.

In the End

Sure, this stuff takes a little time and effort, but in this “day and age,” this is what spurs consumers to take action and use your services. I’m a sucker for new technology fads and I make my friends jump on the bandwagon. So if a good portion of the world is like me, the time will be worth it. In fact, coworkers and I choose lunch restaurants based on Foursquare specials. Consumers looking for self storage search on search engines and see maps locations. They want specials and like to communicate with their peers on what they are doing and what deal they received. Jump on the bandwagon and see what it can do for your self storage facility.