I admit I love Foursquare. I check in a lot. I love my Mayorships. I cherish my badges. Is Foursquare for everyone? No it is not. And even for those of us who do use it, are there smart choices to make when using it? Oh yes there are.  Are a lot of you making them? Oh no you are not.

@Dens said…
Back in January at Inman Connect NYC Dennis Crowley spoke to the crowd during the opening session about Foursquare, how it came to be and why it came to be. For the end user it looks like a fun little Social Media game – here is where I am, and here is what I think or like about where I am! With the added bonuses of badges and Mayorships, Foursquare is really doing a whole lot more than entertaining us.

What Dennis talked about, and what struck me, was the simple brilliance of how they are aggregating data, determining patterns, and then in turn making this information available to a variety of businesses.  Encouraging them to acknowledge their Foursquare Mayors, and offer specials.  The power of what Foursquare does for a business, is help them to identify their market, their customers, and recognize a variety of patterns in the check-ins.

Well it isn’t quite the whole population, but it sure is a power demographic who is using it isn’t it? Typically young, urban, hip professionals, typically in the high tech industry, and with ample disposable income. Why wouldn’t you want to offer the Mayor a Free Frappuccino (Starbucks offers specials!)?  I know I liked the special at the hotel bar in San Francisco while I was there in July for Real Estate Bar Camp, a buy-one-get-one-free? We all loved it!

Cool Concept, but Not So Fast
So very cool concept, and fun to use, but caveat emptor people! Those check-ins are visible to people, to strangers perhaps, and sometimes checking in is not the right option.  Early in my usage I created a check-in at my house, at my daughters bus-stop, and my bank.  I soon came to realize that those were not really places I wanted to check in. I don’t need a pin on a map identifying where my house is, or for you to know when I go to the bank.  To me there is an even greater concern as a Real Estate professional, your clients are watching you…

Real Estate agents know we have flexibility in our schedules, and sometimes that means hitting the mall for an errand, or the grocery store, during “normal business” hours. Well none of us keep those 9-5 hours like most of our clients. If a client is watching you, or a potential client is observing you, what will they think about that jaunt to the Apple Store at 11:30am while they are waiting for an addendum you are supposed to send?

Yes there is the option of hiding your whereabouts, which still helps Dennis (@dens btw) get that valuable data, but still – playing is fun, but you need to play smart.

It Isn’t For the Faint of Heart
FourSquare isn’t for everyone.  Chris Brogan recently wrote a post about “location based social applications”, and why he doesn’t use it.  I think Chris might be missing the point, since he doesn’t Foursquare (or GoWalla) then he might not be aware – you can hide, you aren’t required to check in, you can pick your friends to share with, and I totally agree they should add Linked-In.  So Chris, next time you are travelling and don’t want to decloak, you can still check in on Foursquare, and only Foursquare and you will know. But that is just my take on it, and it is not for everyone.

Beyond Chris, Foursquare isn’t for many people in the public eye who might be concerned with privacy and safety.  The average person needs to be concerned about safety and privacy too!  A big topic of discussion I have heard over and over again is that people are watching you check-in, and there are websites tracking this, so people know when you aren’t home.  I can see that, but isn’t that a little naive to assume that no one else is at a house and they will go rob your house?  That gives me a good chuckle.

So, I give you my rules for Foursquare:

  1. If you wouldn’t put it on Twitter, don’t put it on Foursquare.
  2. Select where you want your message to go – friends, Twitter, Facebook, or select none and you are hidden!
  3. Don’t check in places you shouldn’t be. A friend once checked into a Hotel he was driving past at 2:00pm thinking it was amusing.  I don’t know if his boss, or employer would be as amused.  People are watching you!
  4. Don’t check in places you don’t want people to know you are at.
  5. Never check in at the Bank, they don’t know to know you just withdraw all your savings in cash to move to a new bank.  I don’t think the bank needs the Foursquare data.
  6. Please don’t check into your house.  It is fun, but do you really want everyone to know where you live?  And especially your kids – watch what they are doing on these location based games. I also think Dennis asked us NOT to do the house thing, no value to them.
  7. Warn your spouse or partner – Foursquare caused some trouble for a friend back in January when she checked-in at her hotel, and there were three others already checked-in, who happened to be men, Foursquare issues the “Playa Please” badge, resulting in a not so happy phone call from her husband.
  8. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should – think before you check-in.


What do I do?
I am very selective where I check-in, I don’t check in to probably more than 40% of the places I go, sometimes I hide, sometimes I don’t check in.  I don’t always put my check-ins on Twitter, sometimes just to my friends, and rarely on Facebook.  I map new consulting clients when I meet them, and explain FourSquare to them. I don’t put my listings or open houses on it, those are residences, not businesses.  I also have used FourSquare while attending conferences and events to find out where my friends are so I can catch up with them, that is quote useful!

So would you FourSquare?  I do, some of the time.  Want to know more? Check out their site, or maybe I will write an advanced FourSquare post.

Oh and hey Dennis, I do want to talk to you about an idea I have for a variation… Tweet me. 😉

Disclaimer: I have tried GoWalla, and it just didn’t play nicely with my Blackberry – major battery drain, and I knew far too many people were able to cheat, no fun in that.  Plus they banned my friend unfairly, so call this my protest for @The_BORG. =)

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