Once upon a time, you might have heard the term “foursquare” and thought it was a misprint. Or thought it was referring to those four states that all meet in one spot in the Southwest. No, that’s four corners. More than likely, you probably thought it was simply a passing fad. Now you might be wondering if it’s something worth really paying attention.
I’ve been using Foursquare for a few years but admittedly, very sporadically. At first, I was obsessed with checking in everywhere. I wanted the most points. I wanted to be on my local leaderboard. I wanted to be mayor.
(Did I mention I’m a bit competitive?)
I created an account. I downloaded the iPhone app. I found a few friends (based on my email contacts or Twitter followers). I started checking in. I got razzed a few times about the excitement of my life: check-ins to Sheetz, Walmart, and other suburban thrill spots. And then I met a friend for lunch at a Brazilian steakhouse. Some place exciting! I checked in and found to my surprise that my Foursquare app displayed a list of other Foursquare users in that restaurant at that time. Being a newbie, I had no clue what, if anything, to do.
Much to my surprise, about halfway through my lunch, I’m walking to the buffet and I see a gentleman waving his iPhone in the air at me with my picture on it. Now that may freak some people out but I knew there were some of my “friends” from Foursquare in the restaurant. I walked over quizzically saying “Wayne?” I had connected with one of the more well-known social media enthusiasts in town, Wayne Sutton.
In that moment, social media crossed the lines from virtual interactions to a real life handshake and exchange of business cards.
I don’t really make those connections anymore. I’m not trying to make friends through Foursquare. But two years ago when I wrote about it, that’s exactly how is was positioned.
From their own site (in 2009):
“foursquare is a cross between a friend-finder, a social city-guide and a game that rewards you for doing interesting things. We aim to build things to not only help you keep up with the places your friends go, but that encourage you to discover new places and challenge you to explore your neighborhood in new ways.”
I decided to revisit their site just to see how they are officially positioning themselves these days. Their description has, not surprisingly, been updated:
“Foursquare is a location-based mobile platform that makes cities easier to use and more interesting to explore. By “checking in” via a smartphone app or SMS, users share their location with friends while collecting points and virtual badges. Foursquare guides real-world experiences by allowing users to bookmark information about venues that they want to visit and surfacing relevant suggestions about nearby venues. Merchants and brands leverage the foursquare platform by utilizing a wide set of tools to obtain, engage, and retain customers and audiences.”
In a nutshell, you’ve got a mobile application (designed for most smart phones) that allows you to check in to the different places you visit throughout your day. It might be a retail store, or an office, or a restaurant. But it’s definitely a social thing. One more social thing. Do you really want people to know where you are? Aren’t you really just providing better tools for stalkers?
If you’re the sort that cares about numbers and an arbitrary measure of online influence, it’s important to note that Klout now allows you to link your Foursquare account to your Klout account. Presumably it has some effect on your overall score but how they weight it is their own mystery.
If you are concerned that geolocators are just apps asking for trouble, then you need to ask yourself the personal questions and decide if it’s worth it.
I asked some fellow bloggers what they think about using Foursquare, specifically, since it is by far the most popular location-based app boasting the following numbers (as of April 2011):
- Users: Over 10 million worldwide
- Check-ins per day: Over 3 million, with over 750 million check-ins total
- Businesses: Over 500,000 using the Merchant Platform
That’s a lot of businesses. Those are a lot of users. And man, that’s a ridiculous amount of check-ins.
So who’s participating from the blogging world?
“DH and I are totally competitive with it. We try and see who can be mayor of the most places at once. Since like NO ONE in my town uses it, we are mayors super easy.”
“My husband and I have made it a competition, too! I love Foursquare… I have often discovered a friend to be in the same area because of it and love when my online and IRL lives collide!”
“I use it several times a week. I have a few local rivalries going on. I was a big time user until I stopped getting badges frequently.”
The social media-phytes:
“I was hooked and unhooked myself out of sheer boredom and wasteoftimeness. However, I do use it when I’m at SoMe-related events. Like conferences and tweet-ups and things.”
“I use it when I leave places, or when I’m attending events. I think it can cause some issues with privacy and security so I’ve figured out what works for me and what doesn’t. My line in the sand may be different than someone else’s though.”
The privacy seekers:
“I have an unhealthy security phobia with FourSquare. the rest of my life is on the internet for the world to see … but, FourSquare….. I have issues.”
“I don’t use it. I’ll check in with Facebook places if I’m somewhere fun or that I want someone to know about, but otherwise don’t like accessibility to me with things like foursquare. I don’t care if Klout uses it, but my score will be lower as I won’t.”
“When my hubby started using it, I stopped. Especially when I noticed he was checking in at the same places I was. It became too scary. The interesting thing about Foursquare is you can figure out who’s dating who by their check-ins.”
The party girls:
“It got me a free shot on my birthday since a local online friend saw my check in at the neighboring bar so I am all for it!”
“I use it when I’m big places usually after I’m leaving. Recently on 2 occasions I checked in and got a perk. That was kind of nice. It’s worth checking to see if there’s a deal. I do think it’s ridiculous to make that part of Klout. People knowing where I am is not socializing in any way.”
“I like Foursquare. I use it to get deals on local places.”
“I forget to check in. I don’t find it very useful.”
What can you surmise from a user perspective?
1. There are definitely concerns about privacy.
2. It’s nice to use for cool, hip, or especially social events and locations.
3. You can sometimes find a deal by checking in.
4. It doesn’t seem at all important as a measure of online social influence.
Now it’s your turn. Are you a fan/user of Foursquare? Do you fit into one of the groups above? Does it make sense to include that network as a measure of your social influence?