This article focuses on learning the basics of Foursquare, how to get set up, use it, and why. I finally decided to get serious about Foursquare. Before I can understand how to use it for B2B marketing, step 1 is to play with the app and test it for personal use. Once I understand how it works, I will apply my learnings to B2B usage. This will be covered in a future blog.
First, sign up for an account, I had already done this but needed to retrieve my password and update my profile. This happens under your picture/name in a little drop down under "Settings" on the Foursquare web page. Of course, you can do all of this through the app, but personally, I don't like setting myself up on a tiny little screen. Your choice.
YOUR PROFILE (Update under Settings)
Simply upload a picture, write a description about yourself and decide how much other information you want to provide.
PRIVACY SETTINGS & NOTIFICATIONS
Make sure to go through the notification settings and privacy settings so that they can meet your needs and comfort level. I don't need to get notifications every time somebody likes my check-ins, but I'd like to know when I get mentioned by somebody else, for example.
SHARING WITH OTHER NETWORKS
From my friends, I have seen them share their locations on Twitter and Facebook via Foursquare. The question here is, why are you using Foursquare? Probably you want your network to see where you are; maybe so you can connect or simply to share your preferences (e.g. Starbucks vs. Peet's). In my case, I simply want to test the app, nothing else. I decided to check the option of sharing selective information on Facebook, but not on Twitter, as I mainly use Twitter for business.
There seem to be a ton of apps that add additional features to Foursquare, like Sonar: Informs you of your connections to interesting people nearby (note: I installed Sonar via iTunes & it then showed up in my "Connected Apps" tab on Foursquare). More details on the latest connected apps here. I will review individual apps in a future blog post in more depth. This is my general recommendation for clients: to avoid getting overwhelmed, start small, gain a comfort level and then build on top of that know-how.
Obviously, Foursquare is useless if you don't install the app on your mobile device so that you can check in at the different locations you visit: there is an official app for the iPhone, Droid and Blackberry, plus some other unofficial apps. You can get the official app here or simply install it through iTunes or other app stores.
HOW TO USE IT?
To check-in, launch the phone app and click on "check-in". Using your GPS, the app suggests locations around you to pick from. You can also add comments for your friends, maybe a note if you thought the place was good or where to park. I picked a coffee store close to my location to check-in and was rewarded with a pop up: "You unlocked your first badge. Newbie". I can now see who of my friends have checked in at the coffee store in the past. There is also some verbiage that sounds like advertising from the coffee shop disguised as "Popular Tip".
When I click on explore on the app, I see a map of my town with a list of pins that show stores that Foursquare has decided to recommend to me. It's called "Top Picks". It includes a shopping mall, restaurant, movie theater etc. I see my favorite Peet's store and "save" it, then there is an option to add it to "My-to-do-list". I assume this is for restaurants or places I want to remember to check out in the future. Under "Top Picks", I can choose from eight different categories to explore. Next to "Top Picks", I can click on my current location, which takes me to a map. There I can click on the current location and do a search for a different location, e.g. San Francisco. My "Top Picks" are then displayed for San Francisco.
Under Natascha, I see widgets with my friends, stats, photos (empty), tips, badges and lists. I have one badge, 34 friends and one item (Peet's) on the list. Under stats, I see my points, and a comparison to two of my friends who have points sightly above and below me. I also see where I checked in and which categories I have so far explored most = coffee shops.
WHAT IS THE POINT?
As I can see it, the main purpose of Foursquare for personal use is to stay connected with friends by letting them know where you are at a particular moment, to leave recommendations for friends, and to use Foursquare to locate restaurants and places. There is a list function that shows recommendations from other users. If you are the competitive type, you'll enjoy getting points, badges and mayorships for your check-in.
It's like playing a game with your friends. You earn at least one point for every check-in. The person who checked in the most at a place via the past 60 days becomes the mayor. To be eligible for mayorship, be sure to upload a picture. Badges are for a bit of extra fun in particular categories. Then you can compare your "accomplishments" with your friends'. Finally, and here is the part that I find most appealing: some businesses provide rewards for frequent check-ins, e.g. a 10% discount for a coffee. Ask at your favorite places what you can earn for being a loyal customer.
If you are an avid Foursquare user, I'd love to hear about your experience, tips, does and don'ts.