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Foursquare gives merchants new tool to talk to loyal customers

New feature on check-in service lets businesses send status updates that may include special promotions and photos to repeat customers already in the vicinity.

Foursquare's new Local Updates tool lets merchants talk to local customers in real time. Foursquare

A little more than a month after Foursquare gave its users a redesigned interface, the location-based social network has unveiled a new way for merchants to communicate with customers in real time.

The new feature, called Local Updates, began rolling out today, providing what is essentially a status update for the nearly 1 million merchants who have claimed venues on the social service. The free-to-use service allows merchants to post text messages, special promotions, and photos to the Foursquare activity feeds of loyal patrons who are in the vicinity.

"The best part is there's no extra work for you to do: we already know you care about a place if you've checked in often or liked it, and will show you updates from it when you're in the same city," Foursquare said in a company blog post detailing the new feature. "If you change your mind and don't want updates from a business anymore, you can turn them off with one tap."

The new feature has already attracted several nationwide businesses, including H&M, Togo's Sandwiches, Outback Steakhouse, and Wolfgang Puck restaurants, among others, Foursquare said.

Examples of some uses are below: