Update: I spoke about this at the Social Media Cafe Liverpool – presentation below.
Foursquare. It’s the latest hottest thing to blog, tweet and generally foam about.
Unfortunately, over-excited use of Foursquare can often simply annoy your Twitter followers. Who cares if you’ve just checked-in at “Don’s pizzeria” or if you’re Mayor of “[hipsterrific bar]”?
The real value in Foursquare is not just tweeting where you are, or when you’re Mayor or whether you’ve got the badge that says you’ve been out drinking every night for the last five days (maybe you need to check in at your local AA club).
Foursquare is for keeping track of your friends and getting recommendations about good and interesting places to hang out from people you know and trust. When you go to Don’s Pizzeria, tell me why and what you’re doing there. Leave a tip to recommend something (or to remind me to avoid the kebab).
Here’s my top three tips for making Foursquare useful:
(and, influence people, in a sense):
1. Login to your Foursquare account on the web, click Settings and turn-off the default options to send tweets whenever you check-in, become Mayor or unlock a badge.
Don’t worry, you can turn these on per check-in. This will stop you losing Twitter followers, bored of incessant check-ins at home, work and the train station.
2. Check-in and add a note each time you do. What are you doing there? What’s good? Are you available to hang out? Many people will get your live Foursquare check-ins through Twitter too (if they don’t have Push-type notifications on iPhone etc). So tweet these, if they’re useful.
Again, avoid tweeting mundane places unless you’re looking to hang out with people or at an event. Adding a hashtag helps with the latter.
3. Leave tips. Not cash, but those little notes you can add to places from the Foursquare app. When others check-in, one of the tips pops-up which can help someone make a decision about what to do, where to go or what to have. Ostensibly, tips are positive things, but I have no hesitation in pasting a place if it deserves it.
Winning over your friends
As you become more active on Foursquare, you’ll begin to add up a list of friends. The more users that join, the easier it becomes to find other people and use Foursquare as a way of organising social activities. In Manchester, for example, I find skimming my Foursquare friends list over lunchtime a good way of finding out where other people are and if they’re available to grab a bite to eat.
Of course, you can always check-in “off the grid” if you want a bit of privacy.
And yes, it is interesting to know who’s the Mayor of a venue. You become a Mayor being by the user to check-in most frequently over the last two months. If a friend is a Mayor, this is a signal to me that he or she goes there lots and, in a sense, endorses it as a venue for whatever goes on there. Checking-in at a venue without actually being there, or really making use of it, is probably somewhat misleading and won’t win me over as your friend.
Foursquare is by no means the only location-based social recommendations app out there. I myself was (and still am) an advocate of others, like Gowalla, that frankly have a sexier design and ask users to crowdsource locations, rather than simply buy up a local directory a starting point.
Unfortunately, there is a degree of critical mass with Foursquare that goes with the relentless adoration lauded on it by Mashable. This means most of my friends and colleagues have naturally gravitated towards it as a network and that, in turn, makes it more useful for me, to find out what’s going on where. There are methods of checking-in on multiple networks, however I have yet to try these out myself.
Remember, Foursquare is all about recommending local places and things to do. This sort of stuff can add value to what your followers see on your Twitter time line, but if you tweet about it too much, it can really turn people off.
So check it out and, if you know me, add me as a friend.