With a user base quickly approaching 2 million; Foursquare is the leader in check-in based applications. It is a deadly blend of social networking and virtual collectables that a guy like me can't resist. Sweetening the pot even further, Foursquare recently started allowing verified businesses to offer special check-in deals to Foursquare users - an option I've been reaping the benefits of lately (50% off my meal during World Cup matches? Yes, please!). With the application gaining nearly 100,000 new users a week, people are starting to take notice and ask, "What is this Foursquare and why is everyone in love with it?" Well let me tell you:
- Check-ins: Every time you visit a place - be it a restaurant, bar, park, or even a special event - you check-in on Foursquare. Upon check-in, Foursquare awards you points based on how many other check-ins you've had that day, whether it was your first time checking in to the place, or if you just added a new place to the Foursquare data base. These points are then compared to your friends (which you add to your Foursquare account just like a Facebook friend) on a leaderboard which resets every week (much to my displeasure; I'd love to see how many points I've gotten since I started "ridin' the Square"). Via the check-in, your friends can see what you're up to and vice versa.
- Mayorships: So what good are all these check-ins besides stalking your friends? Well the big one is Mayorships. Or is it a Mayorhood? Anyways, if you've checked into that particular venue the most times you are declared Mayor of that place. While the actual Mayor algorithm is shrouded in mystery (sort of like Google's) from personal experience I can say it is a lot more complicated than just having the most check-ins. I'm currently engaged in an epic battle for Mayorship of our office even though I have well over 120 check-ins!
- Badges: I'll admit I am a total badge addict. To me there is no greater delight in Foursquare than acquiring a new badge. The means to get certain badges are kept secret by Foursquare although a quick Internet search can tell you about most of them. Some badges you get for checking in to a certain type of place a certain number of times like the Gym Rat (check-in to a gym 10 times). Some, like the Super Mayor badge, you get for meeting special criteria (having 10 Mayorships at once). The worst, yet most prized, badges are those surrounding a special event. Oh how I covet all those SXSW badges! I would have to say the crown jewel in my badge collection right now is the elusive Swarm badge you get for being at a place with 50 other people checked in.
- Special Deals: This is a rather new addition to the Foursquare arsenal, but it is definitely the most potent since it gives you real world savings rather than virtual world street cred. Retailers can now enable special deals to be offered via Foursquare upon check-in. The most typical I've seen thus far are things like 10% off your purchase on your 1st and 5th check-in and a free dessert for the Mayor (finally the power your Mayorhood so richly deserves!). I'd like to see retailers get more creative with this. What happens after your 5th check-in? You have to battle out the Mayor of the place for any other deals and that might discourage loyalty to the store if you have a rather tenacious Mayor (or worse a Mayor who is an employee).
Be it to keep track of your friends, lord over a tiny piece of the city as its Mayor, show off your rare badges, or just score sweet deals - Foursquare fits the bill. I joined up just to try it out, and now I'm approaching my thousandth check-in. So give it a shot! Just don't blame me when you get addicted. Maybe one day we'll be part of the same Super Swarm!
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