Experimenting with foursquare

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been attending the online 2010 Social Media Summit. I want to stay on top of the latest trends in social networking and social media so that I can provide clients with relevant and timely data, but, also so that I can use what I learn for my own websites.

One of the up-and-coming social websites that was discussed last week was foursquare. Tristan Walker from foursquare said that foursquare is a “mobile social application” that, from a consumers point of view, “make cities easier to use”, and from a vendors standpoint, helps them “acquire and retain customers”.

Consumers
You open an account (free) with foursquare. As you go through your day and from one venue to the next, you log into foursquare and “check in”. When you check in, foursquare can tweet your location to your followers, make an entry in your Facebook, and make the information available to your foursquare “friends” (oh, yeah, building foursquare community). The default is to perform all three, but, you have the ability to (un)check any and all for each check in.

Home page at foursquare.com

The more places you check in for the first time and the more times you check in to a (repeat) venue, you earn points, and ultimately, prestige awards from foursquare. For example, if you are the person who visits a vendor most often, you receive the “Mayor’s badge” for that vendor. There is actually a dashboard panel that displays the statistics of your points, the badges you have earned, where you have been and how frequently.

Vendors
Foursquare’s appeal to vendors then is that vendors can use foursquare’s prestige awards as incentives for foursquare “members” to patronize their establishment. So, for example, a vendor might offer a free meal, haircut, or round of golf to the person who becomes the foursquare “Mayor” of the venue.

Conversely, if a vendor is not getting any “check ins”, they might offer a special in order to get the ball rolling and get some visibility on foursquare.

So you see that it is a win-win system for both consumers and vendors.

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So, since the session, I created an account on foursquare and started to check in periodically. I don’t check in all the time because that just doesn’t balance with me. If you want to know where I am every part of the day, shadow me in person.

So, the reason I am writing this post is to let you know that it is fun, and I can see how it will become addictive – and probably more so than Twitter and Facebook. Afterall, you have your cell phone with you all the time, and, you are on the move when you are checking in. You can log on to foursquare and find out where your (real) friends are and hook up with them. You can have races with your friends to see who can check in where first.  You can challenge each other to see who can win the most Mayorships in a certain amount of time.

Mostly, it was fun checking in and seeing where my friends were checking in. The snag that I ran into was…foursquare didn’t always get the GPS signal right, so, I couldn’t check in. Last week, I was at Panera Bread in Marlborough, MA and foursquare insisted that I was in Ontario Canada and kept showing me Michigan and Ontario venues. I moved from Panera’s to the other side of the parking lot and it showed me the same places. While at other venues, I checked in, and the check in “recorded” screen didn’t display, so, I checked in one or two more times until I saw that screen… and, of course, as I look at my statistics, I was checked in multiple times for some venues that I only visited once.

Curiously enough, a friend (@mannismacneil) sent me a link to this blog post made by Doug Gross on May 11, 2010 –  Foursquare tweaks make it easier to ‘check in’. It begins,

For anyone who’s ever tried to check in somewhere on Foursquare, only to mutter, “No! That is NOT where I am,” help is on the way.

So, it is not a perfect system yet, and from a consumer’s point of view, it is downright disappointing when you have been on a roll checking in. It discourages you from checking in for the next “x” amount of time. Foursquare is going to have to talk vendors into providing some really great incentives in order for consumers to overlook these “inconveniences”.

As the product matures and the tweaks are worked out, I see a beautiful marriage between consumers on the go and vendors incentivizing them to visit their establishments. Win-Win! I like it!

What about you? Do you have a foursquare account? What is your experience…pure fun or a little frustrating?

11:00 AM UPDATE –> So I posted this at 7:40 this morning and 3 1/2 hours later @brett tweeted about Andrew Davis’ blog post about a vendor taking up with foursquares.  Finally a Brand Harnessing the Power of Location-Based Media

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