Should you be checking in on Foursquare?

I wonder, just because you can check in on Foursquare, should you? Users do what they want and “unintended” uses often surface interesting emergent outcomes. I’ve heard of a few situations that make me wonder if there really is no right or wrong way to be using the service…


When I was writing the post yesterday about Foursquare users, I edited out a section that was related but off point. But it lives on here.

A while ago, Rohit Bhargava pondered aloud if announcing your travel locations was a privacy leak. About a month ago, Jennifer Leggio posted about privacy loopholes and considerations before checking in. A couple weeks ago, my colleague Tom Cummings asked “What company will be first to say that employees aren’t allowed to check-in while on the job?

So I wonder, just because you can check in on Foursquare, should you?

Consider these situations:

  • The mayor of a busy airport who is a public transit bus driver
  • A person who checks in to every train station along the journey of daily commuter rail trips
  • A sales person checks in to a prospect’s office during a sales call

Adam Cohen told me about a couple more:

  • The mayor of a newly opened restaurant turns out to be the restaurant’s manager
  • The mayor of a bank branch is a teller

I’m not sure these use cases are what the founders had in mind. One set of behaviors appears to sabotage a loyalty mechanism. Another may breach competitive data. And the third is like dogs running through a neighborhood, marking the same territory one after the other.

Users do what they want and “unintended” uses often surface interesting emergent outcomes. So is there really ever a wrong way to be using Foursquare? Have you heard of any odd or intriguing check-in situations?



0 thoughts on “Should you be checking in on Foursquare?”

  1. turn it up side down: a company could come up with a new way of time recording by forcing employees to check in when entering a specific premises… strange idea? Think about an API to harvest that data.

  2. You have a point. It probably relates to the larger social media frenzy that has people tweeting, blogging and posting videos without real content or purpose. Just because any of this is there doesn’t mean it applies to every situation.

    Personally, I lost interest in foursquare. I don’t go anywhere often enough to become the mayor. And I really don’t mind paying for my beer or sandwiches. I’d rather live in a world where a restaurant owner or bartender threw me a freebie every once in a while just cause he remembers me. Wow, now that I wrote that down, it just seems stupid.

    -M

  3. If you talk to the founders and I’m sure you have, there isn’t really a wrong way to use Foursquare although they do discourage people from checking into places when they are not there. Dennis Crowley talks about people checking into metaphysical locations and impossible locations (like Naveen’s pants).

    For kicks I recently googled “Foursquare Rules” because I have been thinking about some of the things that you and Cohen are talking about as well (we should really go to CBC for beers, right? Tom can come too) and the rules of the playground game are the lion’s share of the results. After tweaking the search a bit, I found Foursquare’s April blog post: http://bit.ly/d1fXTj

    “Now, we’re never going to NOT let you check-in – you can checkin wherever you want, whenever you want – the idea is simply to not award points, mayorships, badges or venue specials if it looks like you didn’t really earn them.”

    And I think that is the extent to which they want to police the situation. What Crowley says and what you allude to in your previous post is that users “police each other”. I think people should be able to check in to wherever they want and use it however they like until the community disagrees with them. This article itself is an attempt at social pressure. I am one community member who agrees with some points and disagrees with others.

    Commuter check in at the train stations: Maybe they’re using the data to see how often the train is on time. Maybe their friends use it because they are at later stops and want to know how the train is running. [Aside: Who cares who the mayor of a minor train station is? YES! I’M THE MAYOR OF RUGGLES! ]

    Mayor of a bank branch is the teller: Does the branch have something to offer the mayor? If not, then who cares? Same with the bus driver, unless he is putting people in danger by checking in.

    The Sales person checks into a prospects office scenario is intriguing. My policy is not to check into clients or prospects unless I tell them I am doing so. If you see me checked into a client, it’s because I am doing a demo. I cannot imagine a sales person – worth their salt – announcing their presence at a prospect. Let’s see if we can get more people weigh in on this.

  4. Employees checking in to work, when their Foursquare accounts are linked to their Twitter accounts and Facebook accounts, offers an SEO and brand visibility possibilities. While the forum on Foursquare is full of people raving against “fake” logins (Ice Planet Hoth, My Couch), the founders of Foursquare have it right: let the community make the rules. If Twitter had forced users to stick by the rules of what they originally envisioned Twitter to be, it wouldn’t be the powerful communications tool it is today. I like knowing that a friend is sick through Foursquare because they checked into their Death Bed, a tweet about it probably got lost in the clutter.
    As for the discussion about a salesperson checking in with a prospect or client: I think every company needs a policy about it. I agree with Mike that clients should be told and approve. It’s a great way for an agency to promote that they’re working with a new client: think of it as Foursquare PR. As for checking in with a prospect, not a great idea for a company but a sole practioner would get alot out of it.

  5. SMike – great question here about the sales professional and checking in, but I’m thinking it only applies to those that friend everyone/anyone on every network. Let’s start with context here. First off, only your “friends” and “followers” can see where you are right?. That being said, I control whom I’m friends with. In my case, I cannot be “followed” on the tool, so I don’t have to be worried about that one – yet.

    With these assumptions, I would have no problem checking in to a prospect, or client’s business address. All it is is a check-in, there is no more information provided, no content around the check-in. While you can say that if you’ve checked into a client, you’re doing a demo, that may not always hold true. The reality is, I don’t know what your up to, regardless of where you check in (based on the check-in alone).

    Being a sales professional, I would have issues if I knew that my location check-in could be seen by ANYONE. If this were the case, I would not do so at prospect or client business locations. That being said, if there were a tool like 4square for the enterprise, I could see that as a HUGE advantage for sales professionals, especially those in management.

    Much of this may be industry-based too, wouldn’t you say? And what if part of your sales strategy became letting the public know where you were? Oh, how fun all the sales strategy will become when a majority of folks are on these various networks!

    Vik

  6. Rules, policy and protocol? Really? No, I don’t think so …

    What’s wrong with the mayor of a city airport being a public transit bus driver?
    What’s wrong with a sales person checking into a prospect’s office during a sales call?
    What’s wrong with a restaurant’s manager being the mayor of a newly opened restaurant?
    What’s wrong with a teller being the mayor of a bank branch?

    Sure, it might be a little silly … but there’s nothing wrong with it. The whole idea of imposing rules to govern who checks-in where is pointless. Dennis and the Foursquare know this. Keep the fraud out. Leave the rest in.

  7. I agree about the likelihood that there are no right or wrong ways to use Foursquare or other services. I will share though some of the oddities I have used/found while playing around with these tools. I was in a Presidents Club in Newark (where I spend a good amount of time, but sadly am not the mayor) and the VP of Marketing for a major corporation who I was connected with was also there. I was able to set up a on the spot, in-person meeting right there – which may have never happened otherwise. I have certainly used it for on the fly ratings/feedback on restaurants – like a mobile zagat for the new nerd (especially bc you can’t post reviews from my yelp phone app….) I have a client that used it to pay attention to who checked in at his restaurant and then also if they followed him on Twitter (the real version of a influencer) and one day the customer mentioned on twitter that he hadn’t had lunch yet. My client drove the whole office sandwiches and pizzas – the best marketing ever. And finally the other use I have found was to be able to actually be social – go figure – with people that i’d like to get to know better. I can see where someone checked in and open a conversation, just like I would at a party, with whether or not they liked a restaurant, etc. I’m sure there’s tons of others. People are so creative.

    Amanda Vega
    http://www.amandavega.com

  8. Peter,

    Well done! You are asking one question that has always been my biggest concern, outside of the obvious personal security issues, how will people game the system?

    If Foursquare is a brick and mortar business owner’s dream consumer sales signal finder, then what is to keep a business owner from:

    a. Checking into his own business daily- a free form of advertising the business
    b. Checking into non competing businesses close to his/her business- attempt to draw a crowd to his/her business block or neighborhood
    c. Telling his/her employees to check into the business location- moving the business name forward, manufacturing popularity?

    Please follow up this post as we all try to realize the best usage for Foursquare.

    All three activities

  9. I found this whole interesting, due to the “metphysical” checkins I often created (“Never You Mind” during my job search, “Ice Planet Hoth” when my furnace quit, “On Mah Bike” when I was, well, moving around but in one place (seat of my bike)).

    I was alerted (by you, Mike) to what Crowley said after I got amounted to a “cease and desist” order from FourSquare’s community manager asking me to stop checking in from “nonexistent” places. That email seemed to be in direct opposition to the spirit of what Crowley was saying. It was only after some direct Tweeting with Crowley that I understood the issue was not a squelching of the users’ own invention, but a worry about the ability to scale the service with all these extra metaphysical locations.

    In my case, this was extending FourSquare from a location tool into a means of expression. In the cases Peter states above, there’s either common sense at stake (checking into a new business pitch? Dumb) or a choice of what a location wants to get out of it (asking employees to refrain and give patrons all the fun.

    As with the inventiveness I started this comment with, there are ways around this- using FourSquare while not ruining it for others

  10. That’s interesting to hear Doug – sounds almost like, “stop tweeting about breaking news, we only built this thing to handle updates about eating lunch.” In other words, users can do what they want as long as we say it’s OK. I’m fed up with the constant crashing of Foursquare’s iPhone app and have almost stopped checking in – maybe I’ll wait and see if the experience is better on the faster hardware of the iPhone 4G.

  11. I understand the potential bandwidth issues and am willing to give them a little room on that. I just wish the community manager had ben on the message. I wouldn’t have been so offended like I was

  12. As 4Square is so new, this is an important discussion adn great topic.

    Checking in to a perspective clients business I would say is a no-no, and that is something that I had not thought about before this post.
    Checking in to a business that you work at, I think is fine, unless you are a store that is looking to leverage 4Square to market to its audience.

    From a privacy standpoint, I have heard of people that check in when they are leaving. I don’t have an issue with this either. As long as there are tools that allow the community to decide who sees what, that is the important thing. Once those tools are removed, the platform is useless as people will leave.

    Mike P | @mikepascucci

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