By Liz Laneri (@lizlaneri)
That’s what one friend calls me. I think she’s making fun of me. Perhaps she just doesn’t get it. In fact, many people don’t really know about Foursquare or if they do, they don’t know how to make it useful. I recall many people saying that same thing when they first joined Twitter.
Foursquare is going through similar growing pains that Twitter went through, IMHO. After all it’s only a year old! So what exactly is Foursquare? Originally launched at SXSW in 2009 as a way for people to find one another at the thousands of parties happening at once, Foursquare is a FREE geolocation service that allows people to check-in to any place via a (smart) mobile phone and tells your friends where you are.
Foursquare makes it easy for you to find people via your Facebook, Twitter and Gmail accounts and allows you invite them to be your friend. It integrates with Twitter and Facebook, so whenever you check-in somewhere it updates it directly on Twitter and Facebook (if you allow it to).
As a consumer, I really love the concept of Foursquare and use it regularly. The ability to know what bars, restaurants, retail stores or area of the city my friends are in is great. I’ve had friends see that I check-in to a place and then text me and ask if they can meet me there.
I’ve quickly learned with Foursquare that the more you check-in to places, the more you’re rewarded. You receive different badges depending on what you do. If you check-in to a place regularly, you’re likely to become the “Mayor” of that venue. The more you check-in in a certain period of time, you receive a “Bender” badge.
As a PR person, I think companies have a HUGE opportunity. It seems like some are starting to realize the potential. Companies can use Foursquare to tell people about their products and services and offer them specials and deals. For example, some bars are even offering free beers to the “Mayors” of their establishment. In addition, Foursquare will notify you of the venues in your area offering specials to Foursquare users.
While it certainly caters mostly to consumers these days, there are more Foursquare business opportunities coming soon. According to a recent Mashable article, a “business dashboard — complete with check-in analytics” is in an Alpha stage and will be rolled out to business owners in the near future. The dashboard gives stats on check-ins, unique visitors, top visitors and more, giving businesses an opportunity to provide more incentives and promotions to customers that keep ‘em comin’.
In addition to receiving special treatment, Foursquare allows users to recommend places to visit. A friend indicated this is her favorite perk because she likes “to see where everyone else is, and the different comments and tips that people leave for various places.” The ‘Top 12’ enables users to list out recommended places, giving consumers an opportunity to try out new places while boosting the brand of that company. For example, I’m the ‘Mayor’ of Same Old Place, a local pizza shop, and I listed it on my ‘Top 12’. It also has a ‘To Do’ list, which enables users to list out places they want to check out soon.
There are a few glitches in Foursquare, especially depending on your type of phone. My friend Lisa noted that there are “more savvy perks on the iPhone, e.g. being notified of mayor specials. I do feel like this will come over time, but for now I feel left out and would generally like to do more on my BlackBerry.” Another friend pointed out that it is “limited to only those with a smartphone.” Which in theory makes sense since it is a mobile social network.
Overall, I’m a fan of Foursquare and learning more about it every day and look forward to getting special discounts because I’m a Foursquare user. I’m not quite sure if I should be proud or embarrassed to be the ‘Mayor’ of a grungy pizza joint in my neighborhood. Eh, whatever, I like the pizza, the cheap beer they serve and the endless compliments the guys who work there give my friends and me when we order.
Foursquare gets four out of five slices.