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Foursquare: Social media as cooperative game

Full disclosure: I've been thinking about covering Foursquare for a while, but it wasn't until the lede of today's column popped into my head that I realized I'd have to figure out what sort of column to write after that first sentence. Journalists sometimes work that way.


Before writing the piece, I spent several weeks trying out the service (but not too many, as my paltry collection of badges will suggest) and quizzed a few people who had spent much more time on it. I didn't have room for their quotes in the story -- but that's what the blog is for, right?

Marc Pina, a branch vice president at Coldwell Banker's Alexandria office who's written about Foursquare on his own site, described the site as both "a game and an information source."

He gave it credit for changing some of his habits, writing that "It sort of forces you to get out of your comfort zone and explore new places since you accrue very few points for continuing to frequent the same places." One example: "On a business trip to New York City, I racked 'em up by leaving my 'home' area, traveling to a new city, going to places outside of my normal haunts and for going to bars/restaurants late at night."

Jen Wilbur, principal at Rockstar Communications in San Diego, wrote that she enjoyed Foursquare's competitive aspect the most. "I'm not a big gamer, but I do have fun racking up points, seeing my name on the leaderboard, collecting badges and being mayor." She noted the upside of this sort of rivalry for Foursquare venues: "From a marketer's perspective, what could be better?"

A third user, who asked only to be identified as a "communications consultant who works for a government contractor," saw Foursquare as more of a knowledge-sharing service. "Badges, mayorships and such are cool, but meaningless -- I have yet to find a business that I visit that's giving away perks or freebies based on Foursquare, but maybe that's because I live further out in the suburbs vs DC or Arlington or other more urban areas."

To foster that sharing, he usually posts his check-ins -- even to Metro stops and grocery stores -- on Twitter. "I almost always share that information -- kinda like Twitter, if you protect updates it is sort of defeating the purpose." Facebook sharing, on the other hand, doesn't work for him: "It seems a much more natural update/compliment to Twitter vs FB to me."

I asked about that issue in particular because I'm not sure if I should start inflicting my Foursquare check-ins on Twitter followers or Facebook friends. (If you've ever wondered why people on either site have begun posting weird links, that's why.)

Wilbur answered by saying that she often broadcasts her check-ins on both social-networking sites. "It always starts a conversation/thread," she wrote. "I also choose to broadcast when I'm at a venue that has an interesting name, is a 'hot spot' or if I'm meeting with others that my followers or friends will know."

Pina, however, said he's cut back on his cross-posting. "When you really think about it, it's a bit weird checking in and telling the world that you're in a bar at 3 am (depending on your line of work), or that you're hitting 10 stores at Tysons while your friends can barely make their mortgage payments."

At this point, I suppose some of you are waiting to jump in, shout "Nerd!" and point and laugh. Well, that's what the comments are for, right? Have at it!

By Rob Pegoraro  |  February 26, 2010; 11:19 AM ET
Categories:  Social media  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Intuit ships new version of Quicken for Mac
Next: An e-mail mess: Can I get your signature?


foursquare posts on twitter are the equivalent of Farmville posts on facebook with one important exception: I can suppress the Facebook updates.

Seeing location after location posted on Twitter by people who are otherwise funny, informative, and interesting to follow is an annoyance. If people are someplace interesting and want to tweet about it, fine, great. That's not this. Who cares if you're at the ice cream store or the Mr. Lube?

Posted by: catester | February 26, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

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