After Stephanie and I got our fortunes told by Zoltan on the Santa Monica pier, we sought shelter in the luxurious Casa del Mar hotel lounge. 20-foot-high windows allowed us to continue enjoying the beach views in comfort.
I'd been experimenting with Foursquare for a few weeks, however it was here that I realized the tangible value this new mobile social network has to offer its users. For the latecomers, Foursquare uses one's GPS location (on the Apple iPhone, BlackBerry, or Droid) to bring up a listing of nearby businesses, parks, schools or points of interest. Then, you “check in” at your specific location. In this case, I checked in at the Casa del Mar hotel.
Once I'd virtually checked in using my BlackBerry Curve, I had access to a long list of tips left by previous visitors who had done the same. Several people recommended the truffle fries, which wasn't an item I saw on the lounge's menu. In addition, the hotel offered a free cocktail with any order of food.
We decided to order the truffle fries, which we wouldn't have otherwise known about, and take advantage of the free specialty cocktail as a result. It was as simple as showing our waitress the Foursquare screen with the drink offer.
A large bowl of warm, salty, truffle-laden French fries soon arrived. They were divine — and raised the bar in my mind as to the perfect happy hour snack. A small serving of ketchup sat unused on the table. By the time we were done, I suffered from a severe case of truffle breath. The dish is certainly not one I'd order on a weekly basis, however I'll be keeping my eye out for it in trendy lounges going forward.
Beyond the opportunity to discover special deals offered by savvy businesses willing to embrace social media, Foursquare offers users a way to connect with people in a new way, based on their whereabouts. This real time tracking of my physical location is why I initially avoided the app, however checking in is always optional, and users have control over whether they make any particular location public to friends, and/or followers on Facebook and Twitter.
As you check into more and more places, you can unlock badges, which exist only as a novelty for now. For example, when you check into four locations in one night, you earn the coveted “Crunked” badge. Your Mom will be so proud.
If you check into a location more than anyone else, than you become the “Mayor” of it, which entitles you to bragging rights, and potential deals from the business. For example, I'm the proud Mayor of The Salsa Room in Arlington (listed by its old name, Cecilia's).
After using Foursquare for a few months now, I've decided to stick with it. Discovering secret deals by checking into places via your cell phone is just too fun to give up. I had a lot more fun with it when I was out and about in Los Angeles, then when I'm doing regular stuff at home like going to the gym and running errands.
At the same time, more than any other form of social media, I'm limiting who I allow to follow me. To pass my Foursquare filter, I've likely either met them in person, followed them online for an extended time, or am aware that they live halfway around the world from me.
Do you think Foursquare has the potential to go mainstream, or will privacy concerns prevent its widespread adoption?
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