Let’s start with some honesty: competing with your buddy to be the Mayor of Starbucks is a silly exercise, right? It’s a freakin’ coffee shop, so why are we so inclined to mark our digital territory with frequent Foursquare check-ins or to stock up on some ridiculous badges?

FoursquareWhile we might have mixed feelings about Foursquare, the New York-based social network continues to show promise as the epitome of geotargeted marketing. Foursquare allows us to connect with our favorite businesses and brands, and it in turn offers businesses new ways of appealing to shoppers in their vicinity with updates, specials and events. Participating businesses can even get free analytics that show checkins, Facebook and Twitter shares and information about some of their most loyal customers (those who check in the most frequently).

This post will describe the value of Foursquare from the consumer perspective, and share some thoughts on how to get the upper hand on your buddy in claiming dibs on your favorite places.

Don’t call him by his pseudonym

Foursquare has been around since 2009. Up to this point, Foursquare users have been identified users by their pseudonyms (first name and last initial) as the default. Now, that’s set to change as Foursquare looks to give more information about visitors to paying businesses.

Whatever the case, more than 25 million people worldwide currently use Foursquare to share their locations, with millions of checkins each day. It’s easy to download the iPhone or Android app, invite friends to join you and start checking in at your favorite places. The person with the most checkins at any location is known as the “mayor.”

Staking your claim to fame

Foursquare can be fun way to share your location with friends, connect with other aficionados of different places, or read ratings about what to eat or buy. Here are some factors to consider in making your checkins:

Competition: The level of competition can vary considerably from place to place. At a location like an auto repair shop, you might claim the mayorship with just a few checkins, while a Costco store could require dozens of checkins. (If you’re looking to outscore your friends, it makes sense to look for service businesses like the auto repair shop that might have lower competition.) You’ll see a message “You are [number] days away from becoming the mayor” as an indication that you are among the checkin leaders at that location.

Personal brand: Another factor to consider is your personal brand. If your brand is about sophistication, you probably don’t want to check in at places like Wal-Mart.

(Dis)Integration: Foursquare can be integrated with Twitter and Facebook so that your checkins are automatically shared on those networks. This adds another interesting dimension, one that comes with a caveat regarding frequency and your audience. If people are following you on Twitter for, say, your expertise on marketing, they might get annoyed by seeing your regular checkins at the local pizza joint. So, either use restraint or don’t integrate those networks.

Travel: Since Foursquare is global, you can check in at places during your vacation at Disneyland, Europe, or wherever you happen to be. These checkins are a convenient way to share your experiences with friend, and also serve as your personal digital record of some of the places you visit.

More than just theaters and coffee shops

One final thought is about Foursquare is that checkins aren’t limited to retail stores and restaurants. You can share your spiritual beliefs or passion for a social cause by checking in at your church or community organization. In other words, Foursquare is just another layer of the onion when it comes to sharing what makes you tick with your friends and peers.

How do you use Foursquare? Do you compete for mayorships at your favorite hangouts, or is it a more casual way to share your location at any given time? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

For more information about how to use social media in your marketing efforts, download our Increasing Conversions with Social Media guide.


Derek Smith

Derek Smith

Inbound Marketing Consultant at digitalrelevance
Derek Smith is an Inbound Marketing Consultant at digitalrelevance.
Derek Smith
Derek Smith

Social Media | 8 Comments

8 thoughts on “How to Be the Mayor on Foursquare

  1. Great article. I have not delved into Foursquare yet, as I am still vaguely worried about telling people that I am not at home. However, as I have begun checking in with Facebook, I see how talking about my experiences with others who like to share theirs could be fun (and valuable for the places I am visiting). Foursquare could be valuable for CaseIndy as well, even though we are not a place one “drops in” on. However, having our customers spread the message to their friends when they come in for a design meeting could be very powerful for us.

    • Plenty of people share your concerns about the potential dangers of broadcasting your location, Jennifer (especially if you’re checking in from Disney Land). So that’s an interesting facet that goes along with using technology to connect with people in new and different ways. I’ve been using Foursquare more and certainly think it has its uses (sometimes you can get deals at local businesses) and I’m interested in how businesses try to connect with nearby shoppers. Seems like Foursquare could be helpful to businesses in expanding awareness of their product; I’ve had conversations on Twitter about different places that I’ve checked into when I’m on the road, which is a pretty cool aspect.

      • Agreed. Biggest problem for us right now? Only a small percentage of our target market is on social media. Our philosophy is to be ready with deep, compelling content for when they do adopt. In the meantime, I shall try to become the Mayor of the Bloomington Farmer’s Market – if they are on Foursquare that is! :)

        • Yeah, it’s so crucial to understand your audience and part of that means knowing where they congregate. It’s great to be aware of social trends and be able to anticipate changes in how people communicate, but I think you’ve also got to be careful not to just assume that your audience is (or will be) in any given place. You’ve got to be able to monitor and listen, understand what’s important to them and how you can help them solve their problems by reaching out to them through the right channels and engaging them with quality content.

  2. Thanks for sharing Derek. I’ve been curious about what makes one a Mayor over the other. You’d think it was the amount if check-ins, right? I had a link builder in my office one week. He checked in 3 times at my company and is now the Mayor. For fun, I wanted to Oust him. I checked in 6 days in a row and couldn’t Oust him.

    Do you know if Foursquare uses social influence as a factor? For example, would a single check-in from someone who is very active and has lots of friends have more weight than a Foursquare newbie?

    • You bring up an aspect that I’ve never really given any thought Matt. I’ve always assumed it was just the straight amount of checkins but I suppose it could be weighted somehow to reward people who are more active on Foursquare in general. And as I noted, you can grant access to other networks like Twitter so Foursquare can pull in that data and could potentially use that to weight social influence to some degree. Maybe your link builder continued to check in or stop after 3, or are you certain he stopped? You’re notified if someone ousts you as mayor but I don’t think there’s an indication that someone is approaching you as mayor. I’ll look into this when I have time but does anyone else happen to know the answer to Matt’s question?

  3. Pingback: Verizon extends NFL Play to FourSquare and FourSquare lands Fios as advertiser

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