(Where am I? Where are you? Why does it matter?)
You may have noticed that everyone is “checking in” all over the place, literally. We will discuss how, why, what it all means, and where perhaps it is going. Foursquare is an application that is free to download on most smart phones and tablets. Once you have created your free account, the application finds your location through GPS technology allows the user to “check-in” to their location. The location may be a home, restaurant, place of work, park, airport terminal, and the list goes on. Foursquare keeps track of all locations that have checked into and also allows the user to develop a “friend” network similar to most other social networking platforms. Also interacting with Facebook and Twitter, foursquare asks the user when “checking-in” if they would like that notification to be posted on Facebook and tweeted out from their Twitter account as the accounts can be connected. You might notice these type posts on Facebook and Twitter. And, foursquare generates additional exposure from users as the post on the Facebook wall reads, “checked-in via foursquare” with the foursquare icon even. While checking in, users may also make comments about the location and even post a picture with the post.
While I have talked a little about what foursquare is and how it works, the most powerful components of foursquare have not even yet been discussed. It was talked about greatly this year at the 2011 South by Southwest Social Media Interactive Session that if and when you add a gaming layer to social media, it becomes fun and more users participate. So, there are multiple gaming layers to foursquare. The first is a badge and mayor system. Users “unlock badges” after checking in to certain places. For example, once a user has checked into 50 locations, the user unlocks the “superstar badge.” It is amazing how active users become when the gaming layer is put in place. The second component is that locations, products and services get a tremendous level of exposure, marketing and advertising when users/others “check-in” as they are also getting the exposure on the users Facebook and Twitter accounts. The third powerful piece is the ability for companies and/or places to be rated and also to offer specials. For instance, I walked into Prince’s Hamburgers on I-59 and “checked-in” resulting in a notice to receive a free cherry milkshake for doing so.
Try on foursquare…and see what you think…