I was on my way into work this morning when BBC journalist Rory Cellan-Jones asked his friends on Twitter about Foursquare. He said he has been using Foursquare for four weeks and wanted to know peoples experiences of it. The response he got from some of the people that I am also following was mixed at best. Rory also quoted a Wired article which says it's cool to compete to become a mayor... Rory said it's naff.
People always have different experiences from using Foursquare. It is rumoured that the core use of it - to combine your location with your social network - is coming soon to Facebook. And this has got people talking about it. So I thought I would play back five interesting and perhaps surprising uses I have found from using Foursquare for over a year now (check my blog post from April '09 here).
Here's my five:
- Local reviews: When you check in anywhere, you receive tips from places nearby from your friends. This means you get to find user reviews based on where you are, of places to eat, shows, watering holes, and so on. My personal favourite - I discovered a Ghanaian food stall near my office because I checked in on Foursquare nearby, and it's now my favourite place to get my lunch.
- Friend finder: When a friend of yours checks in after you, you get an alert. I check in at my office, and receive pings on my phone when visitors arrive, when colleagues are on their way up, and when I'm at conferences or visiting large offices, a Foursquare check-in is often the digital ice breaker.
- Loyalty reward: Shops that sign up to Foursquare can offer you a reward for your loyalty. Debenhams, for example (a client of ours, and an offer on Foursquare that we set up) will give all visitors to their Oxford St store a free coffee from the store cafe if they check in on a Friday. And the 'mayor' gets free coffee whenever they want. Many outlets offer real rewards for online check-ins. Dominos gives out free Pizza across all its UK outlets to its mayors, for example. So for many, Foursquare is worth using just for the rewards.
- Attention grabber: I have noticed that companies using Foursquare in interesting ways tend to get noticed. A small coffee shop called Dose Espresso near my office started using it months ago to attract custom from the digital types that are based nearby. It was one of the first businesses in the UK to do a deal on Foursquare, and has been featured in countless mainstream media since as a result. Using Foursquare simply gets you noticed (but this won't last for long I'm sure).
- Buzz tracker: You should track what's going on over on Foursquare for your business or brand. You can see if people love or hate your products, you can see when people are flocking (or swarming, as Foursquare calls it) and you can learn something in the process. This is how Dose Espresso learnt about its customers' habits - it has 66 active customers using Foursquare (and for a small coffee shop like Dose - it's literally a 3 square metre sized shop - that's a lot of learning).
[note - I don't personally like or find use in the gaming element of Foursquare for badges or mayorship. I know many do, but it's not my cup of tea.]