Social Check-ins: From Social Engagement to Brand Advocacy

How To

Social media has changed the way we live. As just about anyone can attest, it has impacted how we interact with one another, how we patronize businesses and brands, even how we interpret the world around us.

To stay relevant, it is almost expected that your brand participate in social media. However, to find lasting success with social media, you must look beyond social engagement to social advocacy, seeking ways to enlist your customers in a common cause – the promotion of your brand. Beyond social engagement, your organization can use social check-ins to foster deeper relationships with customers, transforming them from silent patrons to vocal advocates willing to actively promote your brand through their social channels.

Beyond Self Promotion

The two fundamental goals of social media for business are to increase brand awareness and ultimately build brand advocacy. When customers check-in at your business or on your brand website, they’re not only connecting with your brand but also promoting it to their social followers. Research shows that brand recommendations from friends and family carry more weight with customers than any other source. When you see your friend check-in to Disneyland, doesn’t it make you want to go all the more?

Let’s take a look at how companies are using social check-ins to increase brand awareness build brand advocacy.

[image from Facebook]

Beyond Disneyland, this graphic illustrates the most popular global locations for Facebook check-ins in 2013.

Online Check-ins with Madewell

There are actually two different types of social check-ins, online check-ins through brand websites, and the more familiar “real world” check-ins at physical business locations.

Casual women’s denim brand Madewell has found success with the former, running a variety of social check-in campaigns through Instagram. By identifying a specific hashtag, #DenimMadeWell, the company encouraged customers to “check-in” to the brand by posting photos of themselves in its denim products. This initiative not only encouraged Madewell customers to actively promote the brand through their social networks, but participants would have to already own a pair of Madewell jeans to post their stylish photos. Well played, Madewell.

Real-World Check-ins with Yelp

In the real world as with the online world, recommendations from friends and acquaintances rate higher than simple advertisements. Solutions like Yelp check-ins are a way for local businesses to promote themselves to nearby customers and would-be patrons. Once a business claims and customizes its profile on Yelp, customers can check-in to the business through Yelp, Twitter, and Facebook.

Yelp also lets businesses offer “check-in deals,” which are specifically designed to entice customers to redeem a discount or bonus by checking-in from the business’ location. By unlocking offers, like “free dessert” or “20% off oil change,” your new brand advocate is not only promoting your business, but socially sharing the “secret” offer accessed through Yelp.

Facebook’s Sponsored Place Check-in Stories

Another way for you brand to take advantage of the social check-ins is through campaigns that are based on previous check-ins. Facebook provides a way to run “sponsored place check-in stories,” or targeted ads aimed at the friends of your business’ Facebook followers who have previously checked-in to your business. Capitalizing on the presumed locational proximity of your followers’ friends to your business, these campaigns encourage them to try your business because “so-and-so” (i.e. one of your Facebook followers) has patronized it in the past.

This kind of highly tailored campaign has the highest click-through rate (CTR) of all Facebook ad types, at 3.2%. Not surprisingly, sponsored place check-in stories are also the most expensive ad types on a cost-per-impression basis ($6.27). However, if the higher CTRs translate into higher ROIs, it may be worth it.

Social Engineering with Social Check-ins

South African Airways has taken social check-ins to the skies, allowing their patrons to leverage social media to choose whom they sit next to on a flight. After checking-in online, you can share certain personal or trip details from Facebook – interests, background, why you’re traveling – and then choose to sit next to someone with similar interests. SAA ensures that the details are not viewable after seating selections have been made, and SAA does not use the information provided for internal purposes or sell it to third-parties. The airline’s philosophy of “no more boring flights” encourages fliers to make the most of the social community found on each and every flight.

Whether rewarding existing fans and customers with great deals or leveraging their social networks to expand your reach, social check-ins offer and excellent opportunity to go beyond social engagement and build long-term brand advocacy.


  1. Are some of your favorite brands using social check-ins?  If so how? If not, how would you advise them to use social check-ins? Think of various online and “real world” applications.
  2. What obstacles might prevent brands from using social check-ins?