Are you new to Foursquare? Wondering what it’s all about? This guide will help you get started unlocking your world with Foursquare!
Foursquare is, at its heart, a social city guide with the ability to recommend places based on your activity, that of your friends and other foursquare users. You use your phone to “check in” at different places you visit, from bars and restaurants to parks, museums and even the grocery store! Foursquare rewards you for checking in with badges, points and mayorships.
Download one of Foursquare’s mobile apps on your phone. They provide apps for iPhone, Android, andÂ Blackberry. “Officially unofficial” apps exist for Nokia’s S40, S60 and MeeGo platforms, along with Windows Phone 7 and Palm. If there’s no app for your phone, you can check in through Foursquare’s mobile siteÂ or via SMS.
Register for an account on Foursquare’s website or through the mobile app. Be sure to upload a profile picture so you can be eligible for mayorships! Link your Facebook and Twitter accounts to make it easy to find your friends and share your current location on your favorite social networking sites.
Check in at the places you visit
Checking in lets your friends know where you are and helps foursquare to tailor your recommendations down the road. To check in, open the mobile app on your phone and Foursquare will use your phone’s GPS to find your current location. Click the “Check in” button or tab to see a list of nearby places where you can check in. If the place you’re looking for isn’t in the list, you can search for it or add it directly from your phone.
When you check in, you’ll have the option to share your location with your Foursquare friends and with Facebook and Twitter. You can change the default settings for these buttons on your foursquareÂ settings page. If you check in without sharing with your friends, your check-in will be private and only seen by you.
Get tailored recommendations
Tap the Explore button in the foursquare mobile app to see a list of places foursquare thinks you’d like to visit right now. It bases its recommendations on the places you’ve been, places your friends have been and the activity of other foursquare users who tend to visit venues similar to the ones you visit. Explore even takes the time of day into account, recommending coffee shops in the morning and bars late at night, for example.
When you first tap Explore, you’ll see a list of general recommendations across all categories. If you’re looking for something specific, say a coffeehouse or food, there are filters to limit the recommendations. You can even search for something very specific, like “fish tacos” if that strikes your fancy, and foursquare will be able to recommend a place nearby.
Explore probably won’t be something you’ll use every day, but when you’re in an unfamiliar neighborhood or a new city, it becomes invaluable. When aggregated, the data users share with foursquare paints a clear picture of the best places to visit.
Check out tips and leave them for others
One of Foursquare’s greatest features is the ability to leave tips about a venue. People leave tips about their favorite dishes, things to do, how to get a discount and even where to find clean bathrooms. You’ll find tips like “the Gyro Pizza is the best you’ll ever eat” or “avoid the hot and spicy burrito â€” it’s neither hot nor spicy.”
You can check out the tips left by other users or leave tips for other people to find directly from your mobile app. They can be from regular users or brands like theÂ New York TimesÂ or History Channel.
You can track things you’ve done by clicking “I’ve done this” next to a tip or you can add something that sounds good to your to do list. You’ll be reminded to try it the next time you check in there.
Discover new things with lists
Lists are collections of tips and venues created by users. You’ll find list ranging from the Best Museums of New York City to Gone With the Wind. Each is created by a local expert, giving unique insight into the best places to visit in a city or for people with a particular interest.
You can find new lists to follow within the app (tap the “Lists” tab) or on foursquare’s lists discovery page. If you have an iPhone, foursquare’s Radar feature can remind you when you’re near a spot that’s on one of the lists you follow.
A social game?
To get users interested in the app and to keep them checking in (and thus providing more data to the recommendation engine), foursquare has developed a unique set of “games.” The badges, points and mayorships typically don’t mean much, but they’re fun ways to compete against your friends.
The mayor is the person who’s checked in the most times at a venue over the past 60 days. Everyone knows you really love a place when you visit enough times to be the mayor. You’ll get recognized on the venue’s Foursquare profile page and other users will see your picture when they check in.
What’s the point of points?
Each time you check in, Foursquare awards you points. Every check-in earns at least one point, with bonus points awarded for certain things like being the mayor, checking in with a new friend or even checking in on certain holidays. The points don’t really do anything, but they’re fun to get an idea where you stand against your friends.
Badges: digital candy
Badges are a fun reward for checking in a certain number of times or at certain places. Some badges are sponsored by different companies, like the History Channel, Wall Street Journal and Bravo. Here are a just few examples of badges you could earn:
|Badge||Unlock Text||How to Earn It|
|Youâ€™ve checked in to 25 different venues!||Check in at 25 different venues|
|50+ people are also checked-in here â€“ itâ€™s a foursquare flashmob!||Check in at a venue with at least 49 other Foursquare users|
|Congrats from History Channel on unlocking America one check-in at a time. Thomas Jefferson would be proud.||Follow the History Channel and check in at three of their recommended venues|
There are four main types of badges: foursquare, expertise, city and partner.
- Foursquare badges are awarded by foursquare for a variety of things, like swarms or making your first checkin.
- Expertise badges reward you for exploring different venues in a specific category, like movie theaters or sushi restaurants.
- City badges are awarded for checking out five recommended venues in specific cities.
- Partner badges are the only badges with a “shield” shape; they’re sponsored by partners and unlocked for various events or activities related to the sponsor. Many partner badges are only available for a limited time.
Earning a badge on Foursquare is meant to be a surprise, so Foursquare doesn’t publish an official list of all the badges or tell you how to earn them.
Some businesses use foursquare as a “digital loyalty card” as an enticement for foursquare users to visit their stores. To reward you for being a regular customer, they might offer you a free drink every fifth visit or 10% off your bill the tenth time you check in. Other places offer discounts to the mayor. You’ll see any specials a business is offering in your mobile app when you check out the list of nearby venues.
Want to Help?
Foursquare relies on their users to keep the database of venues clean. If you spot a duplicate or a venue with incorrect information, Â you can submit corrections by clicking the “Report a Problem” buttons on the foursquare website. Once you’ve been using the service for a while, you can apply to become a superuser, where you’ll be able to correct and merge venues directly.
If you ever need help, foursquare offers great customer support via Twitter by tweeting @4sqsupport.