We’re only one week into Foursquare being available here in Des Moines (and every city), and already I’m seeing a large volume of chatter from people who are confused by it, scared of it, dismissive of it and don’t see the value. This is a classic symptom of a “hot” social network.
In fact, many of these conversations are very, very familiar. We had the same ones about Twitter in early 2007 (I was one of those confused voices) until we each had our personal “a-ha” moments, and then we suddenly got it.
Last week I wrote about Foursquare’s potential for local businesses, but let’s step away from the biz angle for a moment and discuss the personal and social reasons behind why I use it. Please note: This is not a command that you must start using it, or that you should use it in a similar way. I’m writing this for the “I don’t get it” folks – those who are confused by the whole thing and want some clarification.
Broadcasting your current location
When you “check in” to a specific location on Foursquare, the application allows you to auto-broadcast your current location out to your social networks. One misconception about Foursquare is that this is all users will ever do, and the fear is that our friends’ Twitter feeds and Facebook updates will become an endless barrage of useless “I’m at Venue XYZ [LINK]“ updates. This is a legitimate concern, and it’s the reason why I turned off the auto-broadcast feature in my settings. I want to check in to locations to rack up points, compete with friends, and move up the Foursquare Leaderboard, but I’m assuming my Twitter followers don’t need to know about it every single time.
There are circumstances where I do want people to know where I’m at and what I’m doing. For instance, during last Friday’s Des Moines Tweetup I used Foursquare to announce that I was there. (This is something I would typically tweet about, anyway.) People were using it at the Central Iowa Bloggers meetup that same morning in a similar way, saying “Hey, I’m at this cool event, and you’re missing out if you’re not here.”
I left auto-broadcast switched on for announcing that I’ve become the Mayor of a venue. This is for bragging rights. I want people to know who I’ve dethroned. It’s part of the competition, part of the gimmick.
Handling friend requests
Right now there’s a lot of conversation surrounding this issue: “Who do I accept as my friend on Foursquare?” Social networks have forced humans to deal with all sorts of new social mores, and to further complicate things, our connection preferences in each network are going to be different. Bryan Person wrote a great post about his own selection filters, plus his readers’ perspectives. Here’s my rule: If I’ve actually met the person in real life, I’ll accept the request. Yes, in a few circumstances I’ve bent this rule both ways. This is similar to my Facebook filter (IRL connections only) but very different than my Twitter filter, where serendipity rules all.
If you are legitimately concerned about privacy, you do two things: 1.) Avoid Foursquare altogether, or 2.) Use the settings and filters described above to control updates and select who gets into your network. It’s your world.
So, that’s how I’m currently use it, and why. What’s been your personal Foursquare experience thus far? Please chime in below!
Image credit: dpstyles via Flickr