How and why I’m using Foursquare

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.

Managing privacy

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

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Posted in Blog, Des Moines, Social Media, Social Networks
8 comments on “How and why I’m using Foursquare
  1. Richard says:

    It still seems like 10% useful and 90% gimmick. I mean, how many legitimate situations can you think of where you need to broadcast where you are that you can't otherwise do through another channel? And when I say legitimate, I mean a situation where your SN peers actually want, need or care to know? And if it's mostly about the badges and whatnot, then how sad that our advances in technology are going to fuel such frivolous endeavours. But then, perhaps I'm just waiting for my “a-ha” moment, at which point I will eat my words ;-)

  2. Macy Koch says:

    I am trying to get more students to get this and have rewards for attending student senate meetings (which are open to all of campus). It's a work in progress but hopefully soon we'll have people checking in at the Senate Room!

  3. Cavan says:

    @Richard — I agree with it seeming like a gimmick, especially when you picture people ignoring those around them in real life so they can check in on FourSquare.

    Here's why I use it, though — I just moved to the Twin Cities, and FourSquare has been more helpful and fun that I would have expected. It gave me a chance to learn about venues around me and get tips from others on what to order/do there. I was hoping to find more deals/discounts through it, but haven't done that so far. Now I just do it for fun and as a way to help me keep track of what places I've been able to explore so far.

    That said, I've been inundated with friend requests since it went global, and am being more cautious about accepting them.

  4. Neil Roberts says:

    Would love to see some discussion of “anti-social” checkins that I've seen pop up on Foursquare as people compete. There seem to be a lot of checkins at locations where I can't easily visit the person. At workplaces or apartment complexes, for example. There's also the borderline checkin where someone is just popping into a location to purchase something and then immediately leaving. It seems like we should be encouraging checkins at places where others can drop in and say hello.

  5. ambersalmon says:

    And what about Tips and Tricks?? I think that feature is cool….try a new restaurant, and your “friend” has already tried a menu item they recommend….so you try it! I like this for small businesses…silly if they don't add themselves as a venue!

  6. jojostevens says:

    Thanks for this blog Nathan! It inspired me to get an account. :)

    I was wondering if anyone ever thought that people might cheat. Like not really go to someplace (just be in the general area) and continue to check-in to become Mayor or get customer loyalty perks. I can see future Mayor competition smack downs in my head… but hopefully a silly overreaction. :)

  7. Anonymous says:

    And what about Tips and Tricks?? I think that feature is cool….try a new restaurant, and your “friend” has already tried a menu item they recommend….so you try it! I like this for small businesses…silly if they don’t add themselves as a venue!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for this blog Nathan! It inspired me to get an account. :) nnI was wondering if anyone ever thought that people might cheat. Like not really go to someplace (just be in the general area) and continue to check-in to become Mayor or get customer loyalty perks. I can see future Mayor competition smack downs in my head… but hopefully a silly overreaction. :)

1 Pings/Trackbacks for "How and why I’m using Foursquare"
  1. [...] status-worthy content on a LinkedIn status update.  It is simply not the venue.  Furthermore, no one on LinkedIn is interested in where you checked in for lunch or how you just dethroned the mayor of Starbucks.  Back up- what do I mean by [...]

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