When something starts popping up often in conversations, as Foursquare has lately, I’m usually compelled to find out what it’s all about. So on a recent weekend in NYC I went hardcore into Foursquare–apparently even they thought so, I received an “overshare” badge my third day. I started at the airport and proceeded to “check in” everywhere I went. Wait, let me back up and explain, for those of you unfamiliar with Foursquare (and I say this kindly, as I came late to this particular party myself–I am not an early adoptor for social networking tools, although I’m most enthusiastic and delve in deep when I finally arrive).
Foursquare is a free app you load onto your mobile device, whatever you use (I’m an iPhone), and then check in via your mobile at locations you visit as you travel throughout your day. Checking in involves going to the app, which then locates you via GPS and pulls up a variety of places where you might actually be. If your exact place is not there, you can feed in the name and address. Your whereabouts is then publicized to people you have friended on Foursquare. You can also broadcast your Foursquare check-ins to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. When you check in to a place it also brings up any tips previous visitors might have left. You can add your own tips, or tips can also be added later if you’re not in the mood. I can tell you I loved The Violet (a cocktail) at Park Avenue Spring, and definitely think it’s worth a try, but I wasn’t about to add a tip at the time; I was too busy savoring both cocktail and time with friends.
Foursquare, at first glimpse, appeared to be an app for the social segment that is single, out socializing and looking to get together–college students and less settled 20- and 30-somethings. High schoolers tend not to use it, and I wasn’t sure if I was trekking around town with a toddler in tow that I would be inclined to whip out my phone and check in to locations. What would I care about collecting badges and points for my travels? And would it matter where my friends were–I’m at an age where I’m not bar hopping and heading to after parties. But then I had my aha moments–I checked in to Central Park early in the morning and received a pop up message about a health related business nearby to assess my nutritional needs. Later in the day, I checked in at a café and up popped a note telling me that if I went to a nearby sporting goods store and checked in I would receive a 20% discount on my purchase. Suddenly I could see myself with a child, checking into Toy’s R Us and getting a coupon. Or running errands by myself, stopping at a restaurant and appreciating the tip that a certain dish was either very good or a total waste of time. Oh the possibilities…especially when you are in a place that you don’t live. It was a Foursquare tip that prompted me to try the truffle and cheese pizza at Accademia di Vino, a place I’d never been before, and it was delicious!
The problem at this point in time is that Foursquare is still a bit of a social game. I found very few tips given that I was in a major city. I also found that several people might check in to the same place and give it either a wrong address or use a slightly different spelling of the name. For example, Accademia di Vino becomes “Acadamia de Vino” for most people and that is where the tips reside. Only one person has checked in to Accademia under its correct spelling. When the wrong spelling came up, I confess to proliferating the use of the misspelled place check-in because I did not feel like entering the correct spelling and address–I was meeting a friend and just wanted to get inside. If you’ve got a business, get your listing on there and give yourself the edge of people checking into the exact place. All you have to do is start an account and add your place. If Accademia di Vino ever puts out a special, those of us checking into Acadamia de Vino are going to miss it! Closer to my home in Syracuse, I am the only person to have a tip under Gentile’s Restaurant, (which has no check ins because I apparently left a tip there via the web before I started using the Foursquare app), everyone else is checking in over at Gentiles.
When more people begin leaving tips and businesses begin to fully utilize Foursquare’s marketing potential, it will really hit its stride. For me, now that I’m home, I’m going to use it to remind my local friends of some of the great places in Syracuse by checking in as I meander around. Of course, I only have a handful of Foursquare friends, so it will actually be my Twitter feed that does the broadcasting for now. But if local businesses get on board and use Foursquare for marketing, I’m betting I’ll build some community. And I would like to know which of my friends is at the Regional Market on Saturdays so I can look for them. NOTE:Kelly N, if you are reading this please join Foursquare and check in at the market . Oh, and by the way, it’s on Foursquare as the CNY Regional Market, and there are already a few tips.