The 7 Rules of Foursquare

Last week I talked about how Foursquare is a simple tool for marketing your physical business.

Its strength is building buzz among friends tofoursquarephonesfrequent stores and therefore encourage customer retention by bridging the gap of physical places and online gaming and reviews. All of these features are very cool and the whole geo-location gaming concept is extremely new to everybody. Its therefore understandable that some people are pushing the boundaries of what’s an acceptable and unacceptable use of “check-ins” as they’re called. First let’s define what a check-in is:

A Check-in is a public acknowledgement of your presence at a particular location. That said, many geo-location applications (including foursqure) allow you the ability to anonymously checkin, therefore earning you points but keeping your location a secret. The fact that you have checked-in, though, remains public knowledge.

With the power of check-in comes great responsibility, including a virtue called honesty. There are some gray areas when you begin, so I will use this post to try to answer some common questions I had when I first begun using geo-location applications, particularly games such as FourSquare.

Rule 1: Only check-in to places that you actually visit. This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at the number of phony check-ins that occur.

Rule 2: Walking past or otherwise getting close to a place of interest does not constitute visiting and therefore should not be allotted a check-in.
Rule 3: Do not check in at any time other than at the time you are actually physically present in the store. This one is very tough and very tempting. I must admit to having broken this rule in the past, but those days are behind me. The whole point of FourSquare is to play your friends to frequent locations often and find friends nearby. If a friend checks in at a location near you, you may be inclined to visit them thus adding to the social networking aspect of such an application. If you are not actually at the location that you have checked in to (no matter if you WERE there), then that defeats the purpose of the game and you are cheating.
Rule 4: Do not add locations unless you are physically there. This should be obvious from the rules above, but I’m just clarifying.
Rule 5: Do not check-in to locations at which you work. For one, your boss could use this against you if you are running late, but on a more serious note, the point of the game is to get OUTSIDERS to frequent your business. Your employees, on the other hand, have a duty to do so. You should make it known to your employees that they are welcome to, and are encouraged to play foursquare and the like, but not to “check-in” at work.
Rule 6: Do not hide your location (leave “Share with friends” set to ‘yes’) unless you really need to. It takes the fun out of the game.
Rule 7: If you are an active Foursquare user, do not send every one of your check-ins to twitter and facebook. It’s annoying and may get you blocked/un-friended. When notifying facebook/twitter, make sure to incorporate a personal message with the checkin.

Along with these rules, there are a number of ways you can use Foursquare to make it much more interesting. Here’s just a few of my suggestions:

– Leave tips! Ever been to a restaurant and don’t know what to order? Check the tips on foursquare! It’s kind of like the take a penny, leave a penny jars at check-out counters. Leaves some tips, read some tips. It makes for a much more interesting community.
– Get friends to play too! Foursquare is no fun unless you have friends playing along. It’s a game after all! Even if they don’t have a smartphone, users can still play via text. Just sign up online and then checkin via SMS. You can send a text to 50500 (like this: @ Ace Bar ! Playing skeeball) in order to checkin via txt.
– Upload your picture and don’t be a stranger!
– Talk to businesses you frequent about offering a foursquare badge for the mayor. You just might get some free stuff out of the deal.
– Try to find other people who have recently checked-in to the location you have arrived at. It’s not creepy (okay, well, kinda). It’s fun.

If you play nicely with others, this Foursquare thing can really be a blast. Just be fair, outgoing, and even a little on the funny side. Remember, it is a game after all!

Written by

David is an avid social entrepreneur and Boston sports fanatic. He founded Diversified Data Technologies way back in 2009 and stuck around to see it grow. His party quarks include unnecessary dancing and being an overly hospitable host. When looking, he can be found capturing the twitterverse at @DLanphear, being professional on LinkedIn, or bouncing around town with Foursquare.

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