Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mobile social networking primer: Foursquare

(Or, a starter guide for my dad — He has never belonged to any social networks, not Facebook, Twitter or even Gmail. So I was very surprised to receive an invite to become his Foursquare contact. I wanted to welcome him to social media and help him get started in the space.)

Hi Dad!

Congratulations on making it to the social graph (that's what they call our virtual social networks on sites like Facebook and Twitter). Still think it is interesting that you've gotten online via Foursquare, and not through a more obvious platform like the aforementioned Facebook or Twitter. But I think you've chosen a good place to start.

Thought I'd give you a few tips to maximize your Foursquare membership.
(Am going to do a follow-up on getting started with Twitter, since I think you'd actually have an even better time with that. But first things first.)

Ever wanted to be mayor? Foursquare is the way to go

What it is. A social mapping service that allows users to update their profiles with their whereabouts. Users can manually enter their location (e.g. New York Times Building, Times Square), or select for 4sq's list of venues nearby.

How to use it
  • Access: You can download an app (for iPhone, Android or Blackberry) or log on to the mobile site.
  • "Check-in": Using the app or mobile site, check-in to different places - Ayala Tower (office), Lumbang (home), Greenbelt Theater, Salcedo Market, Fully Booked, etc.
  • Add a Tip: You give Tips about what to do, eat or see at different venues, or browse others' recommendations.
  • A note on accuracy: You're only supposed to check-in when you're actually at the place you're checking in to. But Foursquare's GPS isn't very strict and you can check-in from across the street or up to a few blocks away. It can tell though if you're not in the area at all and won't give you points.
  • Get points!: Foursquare keeps a leaderboard of your points earned (by checking in, going to new places, etc) vs. your contacts'. You do want "quality" check-ins because only those will earn you mayorships and badges.

What you get
  • Be crowned Mayor: If you have the most check-ins at a given venue, you are automatically crowned "mayor" of that place. What's the point? Who doesn't want a virtual crown? Some establishments are starting to give mayors special freebies or privileges. Not sure if that's true for Manila Mayors yet though.
  • Get badges: Even better, Foursquare rewards usage with badges. This is where it gets fun - you get these badges for completing different levels of usage - when you check in 1, 10, 25, 50 times, when you check in 4x in a week, etc. There are location-specific badges, like one for making it above 59th St. in NY or riding the Bart in SF 7x. There are branded badges - I have one for hitting five Starbuckses. My badges are proudly on display on the left side of this page!

Why to use it (or not)
  • Why not: There are privacy concerns - people wonder if they're asking to be robbed by broadcasting to the world that they aren't home. The game also gets tiring after you've acquired several badges.
  • Why: IT'S FUN! Especially if you like games, and it really hits a sweet spot for digital or competitive people like me.
  • Why, when more people are using it: Assuming people use the service regularly, it would be a great way to keep track of friends and family members. It's also a good way to discover new places through friends' check-ins.
  • Why, if you were a business-owner or brand guy: It is a great tool to find and interact with customers. It’s also a nice platform to get people to interact with your brand – Bravo puts listings of their recommended restaurants (e.g. by Top Chef chefs) that people can check-in to, to get Bravo badges. Jimmy Choo just launched a new shoe with a 4sq scavenger hunt!

And guess what - you can sync your Foursquare to your (upcoming?) Twitter account. But more about that in an upcoming post.

See you on the square!

Bea  :)

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