By Stefanie Hahn
The two major players in the location-based check-in game are currently Foursquare and, simply because of the size of the network, Facebook. You are probably already a member of Facebook, which is really how Facebook will beat Foursquare in the end. Maybe.
Let’s start with the basics … If you haven’t heard about Foursquare yet, don’t worry. There are still plenty of people not sure what it is or how it works. In a nutshell, Foursquare is one of a few mobile networking sites that allow you to broadcast you location in the world and interact with others who are nearby. It was designed as a game, but has become more about social media than it is about play. Here is a cute video from the Foursquare folks describing the service in their own words.
I resisted Foursquare for quite a while – mainly because I didn’t really feel the world needed to know where I was at every moment and also because I didn’t really see the value in playing along. Then in February there was a whole debate about the “please rob me” sites popping up that told people when you were somewhere else – that was a bit creepy too. In the end, however, I signed up because I recognize when something cool is coming along.
Now when I go places I will sometimes, “check in” with my mobile phone. Most of the time I connect that action to my Twitter stream, so my friends see where I am going. That is more fun than I thought, with people sending @replies to me based on my activity. I also check out the “tips” that have been added to my places (a tip is a Foursquare tool that allows you to say what you like or don’t like about the place) or add some of my own when I think a place rocks. Because it’s all mobile phone based I can see Foursquare wherever I go.
Some businesses will run promotions for the Foursquare “mayor” of a particular store location; which can be best described as the person who checks in the most. Starbucks offered the first nationwide check-in deal with a $1 off their Frappuccinos in May and June. Ann Taylor has offered 25 percent off to the Foursquare mayor and 15 percent off to each customer on their fifth check-in. More recently, The Gap offered 25 percent off to anyone who checked in on one particular day.
So should you use Foursquare? I think so. At least go download the app and see what’s happening out there. Even if you never check in somewhere you will have the reviews of other users at your fingertips (although, in full disclosure, I think Yelp! does that part better right now) and you will know what all this “check-in” talk is all about. Besides all of that, I think Foursquare could have a pretty cool impact on our industry.
Last week, Facebook launched their version of Foursquare with Facebook Places. Facebook Places works in much the same way as its predecessor with users checking into various locations and seeing where their friends might be at any given moment. You can create a place — your office, your listing, whatever, and then check in, add reviews and tips and be seen!
A few important things to consider with Facebook Places … Other users can review your place – giving you props or giving you the business, so be prepared, be professional, and be on top of the places you add. Your Facebook friends can check you in and out of places on Facebook Places. But no worries, you can turn this feature off as needed. In fact, you can stay out of Facebook Places altogether with a few clicks, but really, what fun would that be?!
So the machine that is Facebook, with its more than 500 million active users, half of which actually log in every day is heating up the competition for Foursquare. Facebook is a force, no doubt about that, but Foursquare is seeing record growth and is still my first choice. I’m curious to see how this game will play out and who will be the last one to check-in.
Stefanie Hahn is the education director for Coldwell Banker Hearthside, REALTORS® in Malvern, Pa. Visit her Web site: www.StefanieHahn.com.