There are now 8 million people who use Foursquare, up from 1 million a year ago. Location-based social content is proliferating, and early adopters tend to be affluent, highly educated, and eager to explore new things; according to recent reports.
Most people who check in to restaurants, movies, games, and stores do so to get discounts, according to a recent study by Beyond. So what’ the big deal, and what does it mean to check in? Here’s what it means to me.
First, Some Rules of the Road
- You’re letting people who follow you know where you are. And sometimes friends of friends… whom you may not know well. So be mindful of that. Many people check out - when leaving a public place - which is a good option, especially when you’re traveling, or alone.
- You’re using your mobile phone at a restaurant, or at a movie, or in places where mobile phone use might be deemed rude. So be discreet. Please.
- Never, ever, ever set your home up on a location-based service. Please. Just don’t do it.
Okay. So we’ve gotten the basics out of the way.
Check Out What You Find Before You Check In
I use Foursquare, because I’m one of the 21% of location-based application users who feel rewarded by the gaming element of the experience, earning points, badges, etc. (I admit, I’m slightly coin-operated, but in a different (non-discount) way.)
But I’ve stuck with it because of the information I find within the application.
In this example, I was near a restaurant, Pei Wei, across from my client’s office in Herndon, VA. I was in the mood for something new, but as is the case of many travelers, I didn’t have a clue what the restaurant was like.
I used Foursquare to review the tips other Foursquare users have already posted about the place… to see whether there’s anything outstanding about the restaurant, or to avoid going there at all. It’s saved me from some bad experiences in the past.
In this case, the tips are pretty innocuous. I could go there.
And you can bet that I leave tips, both positive and negative, about my dining and shopping experiences. Pictures too! It’s all a big circle of good content, to be mined by all.
Loyalty Programs Business Owners Can Leverage
The concept of a Mayor in every venue is to reward loyalty, or frequent check ins. You get a point for every check in, and every calendar day you check in will count towards a Mayorship. Sometimes, a business owner will jump in the game and offer Foursquare Mayors and other users specials. (Remember the discounts, above?)
Savvy business owners might offer Mayors a free appetizer for every fourth check in. Why? Because those of us who are competitive, (hello pot!) often fight for Mayorships of our favorite venues.
For example, if I were to go to Ken’s Artisan Pizza three days in a week, I might be able to take the Mayorship from Courtney S., whom I’ve never met, but I like her because she’s an ardent Ken’s fan! If I were ever at Ken’s when she was, Foursquare would let me know she was there. So it’s likely we’ll meet someday, and I look forward to that.
I’m usually stunned to find that business owners who run local establishments have no idea entire conversations (not all of them as pleasant as the tips I reviewed at Pei Wei) go on without them knowing.
As the check in growth continues, the danger of not knowing what your reputation feels like is pretty dire.
Know any small business owners? Show them what their Foursquare (or Facebook Places / Gowalla / etc.) reputation is today.
Do them a favor and help them to check out their check ins.