foursquare logoFourSquare, leading social check-in service has just come out with a pretty big announcement that they are allowing any business or brand to create their own check in page. Up until now the only way to create a check in page for your business has been to go through the team at FourSquare.

For any brick and mortar retail operation engaging in small business online marketing this has the potential to be big news, particularly if your customer base consists of a healthy dose of moderately tech savvy smart phone users. This user set is likely still very much in the honeymoon phase with their new phone so location based apps could be a sweet spot for you to engage.

What is particularly interesting is that right now the threshold is relatively low as FourSquare says that prior to the self serve offering there were only 3,000 businesses utilizing this service. That means that you, the savvy small business owner still has a nice opportunity to be “early” when it comes to location based apps, and in particular with FourSqare. If you’ve been reading my blog with any regularity than you know that I’ve talked about the early adopter advantage in the past.

I can say with certainty that at some point soon the concept of smartphone check-in will take off – of course your big question with your small business online marketing strategy is will FourSquare be a player as this happens? There is always the concern as a small business owner that if you pick the wrong platform your customer might not be willing to come back around for a second service down the road… Perhaps Google Latitude with it’s 10 MM users will be the winner, or Facebook Places, and yes one day Twitter might come out with mobile check-in service of their own. Maybe another service? I personally don’t see smartphone check-in fatigue being an issue in this space quite yet as it is still extremely early days, but yes, down the road this could be a concern once we see some social check-in saturation as this space matures. Today I think if your customer is into this kind of experience they will appreciate you making the effort to provide a social venue for them to check in to.

Another consideration that is always a factor in every small business online marketing strategy is cost. While free to use, FourSqaure (or for that matter any of the other services listed above) still requires effort and resources to convert your customers into FourSquare advocates so there are potential opportunity costs involved. You are also in effect by promoting FourSquare by endorsing their service (much like with any other social media placements within your digital identity.) In this particular case I would say that by affiliating with FourSquare you are in good hands, but I bring it up because every opportunity require evaluation.

The truth though is that I think while there are some really nice benefits surrounding location based apps, and with FourSquare in particular, as a small business owner the best value you can generate today by participating in FourSquare could quite possibly be as simple as becoming versatile with the concept of social check-in. And yes, there is real value in understanding something, particularly when that something has the potential to have a significant impact on your business.

The self-service is still only a few days old, so while it’s great to be early, sometimes there is a benefit to not being first, so if you dive in today you might experience a few bugs. That said, I am confident that the team at FourSquare will quickly iron out any of the lingering issues.

Bottom line: – if you are a small business owner involved in some kind of over the counter transactions and you do not currently have any location based apps in your mix, FourSquare has just provided you with a great opportunity to dive in with both feet.