Editor’s Note: I am the “Mayor” of E Street Pub on Foursquare. As far as I know, I am the “Mayor” of every place I visit in Richmond because I think I’m the only one using it right now. This article should get you up to speed on what Foursquare is and how you can use it to have some fun with the businesses in our area and hook up with the other users in the area as well.
Local businesses listen up: Learn about Foursquare in the links below this article. How to get listed and how to use the service to encourage more business from your patrons!
By Patric Welch
Have you dreamed of ruling the world…or maybe your city…or how about just the local pub? Now you can. Foursquare is a new (sort of) location-based social networking application that lets you record and share your whereabouts as well as tips related to visiting stores, bars, restaurants and other locales. Browse tips that others have shared to discover great new places, products and people.
Getting Started with Foursquare
Foursquare is “sort of” new because it wet its feet in New York City then it was launched to other major metropolitan areas throughout the world (including Indianapolis-home of Noobie). Even more recently, Foursquare became available to all regardless of their physical location.
It’s most convenient to “check in” with your current location information using a smartphone, unless, of course, you plan to connect your laptop or desktop computer to the Internet every time you shop at WalMart. Slick apps on the iPhone and Android are fun to use or you can use a mobile version of the Foursquare website on any phone with a web browser. U.S.-based users also can text in their location using SMS shortcode. Beyond that, all you need is a Foursquare account. Create a username and password on the Foursquare website then Foursquare will help you start finding friends using your Facebook, Twitter and/or Gmail accounts.
Is There Already an App for That?
If location-based social networking sounds somewhat familiar, you may have heard of Brightkite. For many cities it has been around longer than Foursquare. Brightkite continues to grow and expand, however it doesn’t boast quite as many features as Foursquare.
Foursquare is Also a Game
The primary difference between Brightkite and Foursquare is that, like its name-sake playground pass time, Foursquare is a game. You can earn points by checking in at locations, adding new locations, visiting multiple locations in one day or visiting the same location more than one day in a row. Are the points good for anything? No, but if you have a competitive streak you may find yourself trying to top your city’s points-based leader board.
In addition to earning bragging rights for your point total, you can earn badges for being a Super User, Gym Rat, Bender, Explorer and more. The more badges you earn, the more you’ll unlock. The pièce de résistance is earning the title of Mayor: check in at a location more than anyone else then watch out as others try to snag your crown. Some locales grant Mayors discounts and other privileges, but it’s mostly about street cred.
Foursquare in Action
So how will Foursquare affect your everyday life? Imagine you check in at your favorite coffee shop and notice that another Foursquare user also has checked in there. If it is someone you know, you can look around for him and strike up a real, live conversation. If it is someone you don’t already know, then use his profile picture to see if you can spot him in the crowd-before he spots you.
When users check in at locations they also can provide recommendations or “tips,” like: @The Ram Restaurant and Bar – “Try the new peanut butter burger. Wasn’t sure if I’d like it, but it’s actually pretty good!”
@Paradise Bakery & Cafe – “Get up before 11 am and order the oatmeal. You won’t regret it. Be sure to get the shot glass of milk on the side.”
When you check in to a location, you can use these tips as real-time advice. Stuck at home? Browse the location tips you’ve saved to your Foursquare “to-do list” to get ideas about where to go and what to do. To keep Foursquare all fun and games, use a little precaution when checking in with your location information. While it may be easy to become mayor of your own household, it’s probably not a good idea to publicize your home address. And, publicly posting your whereabouts during a Bangkok business trip may become bittersweet if someone sees that information as an opportunity to break into your house.
If you want a little privacy, but you still want to log that you’ve been somewhere, collect your points and try to earn badges, you can select the “don’t tell my friends” option to check in “off the grid.” In general, Foursquare is a fun way to share and exchange information with new and old friends. Take a little time to get to know the interface, exercise some caution and start your rise in the Foursquare ranks!
Patric Welch, also known as “Mr. Noobie,” empowers people to confidently approach technology and use it to enhance their lives. He has a passion for understanding and answering your technology challenges. You can find Mr. Noobie on the web at http://www.noobie.com.
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