If you’ve been at all connected with social media in the past few weeks, you’ve likely heard about the Pokémon Go craze. It’s everywhere -- and small businesses are joining in!

Simply put, Pokémon Go is a game that uses your phone’s GPS and clock to detect where and when you are in the game and make Pokémon "appear" around you (on your phone screen) so you can go and catch them. As you move around, different and more types of Pokémon will appear, depending on where you are and what time it is. The idea is to encourage users to travel around the real world to catch Pokémon in the game. (Gamers call this “augmented reality.”)

Its success is unprecedented: according to recent data, less than a week after launch, Pokémon Go has been installed on twice as many phones as Tinder, has double the engagement of Snapchat, and is surpassing Twitter in its percentage of daily active users.

It's also been a boon to small businesses. As Pokémon Go users traverse their towns in search of the elusive character, local stores, restaurants, movie theaters and small businesses are capitalizing on this massive opportunity.

Here’s how to play along:

1. Download an App
The Ingess app tells you if your business is a PokeStop or Gym. PokeStops and Gyms attract foot traffic without any effort -- players flock to them for rewards and to battle other players, and they can be leveraged for massive sales if you know how.

2. Drop a “Lure"
Ok -- so your business isn't a PokeStop. No problem. Lures increase the rate of Pokémon generation in the area around the PokeStop where they're placed for one half hour. That means you'll "lure" gamers to your business for a half hour while they wait to catch a Pokémon. You'll pay for Lures, but, should easily make your money back -- and then some.

Put another way, “For a little more than a dollar an hour, you can bring virtually guaranteed crowds to your business," explains Walter Chen of Inc. "The ROI here is ridiculous, so if your business is anywhere near a PokeStop, this is something you absolutely have to try.”

3. Use Social Media
Small business owners can connect with users on social media, by taking screenshots of Pokémon, creating hashtags and even offering incentives for customers to play along. Having users tag and share on social media is a highly effective (and inexpensive!) way of promoting your business.

The Bottom Line
Pokémon Go may, indeed, be just a fad -- but it’s always wise for small businesses to capitalize on opportunities. With Pokémon Go, businesses have an unprecedented opportunity to create strong emotional bonds with new customers -- and maybe have a little fun, too!

Sources: Vox, Pokemon Go, Explained | Inc., Pokemon Go Is Driving Insane Amounts of Sales at Small, Local Businesses. Here's How It Works | Forbes, Small Business Tech This Week: Make Money with Pokémon Go, and Vine Is on the Decline

Photo credit: iphonedigital

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