Signing up for Foursquare, getting my first badge, becoming mayor of my locality

In this post I’m sharing my experience as a Foursquare newbie and specifically as a Foursquare newbie uncool enough not to have an iPhone or other such smart device.

In a post here just over a week ago I wondered about Foursquare and how relevant it was for business. I also said at the time I was not eager to try Foursquare, but as in politics a week is a long time in social media. And a couple of informative comments on that post prompted me to take a closer look.

I then decided that, whether it was on Foursquare or Gowalla or one of the other location-focused services, as a social media strategist (as well as being curious as to what the fuss was about) I needed to get with the program and experience what was going on here.

Uh oh! No smart phone

My immediate challenge was that it looked as if I needed an iPhone, Blackberry, Android or Palm to access Foursquare, or to be in the USA and use SMS. A quick call the the phone service provider showed that my contract there has another seven months to run, so the option of a smarter handset was not on.

Then when I looked more closely I found there was another option as long as my phone was Internet-enabled, which I knew was technically possible. I could go online to the site http://m.foursquare.com and “check in” there – i.e. record my location.

Getting set up, unlocking my first badge

So my Foursquare adventure began with activating, for a $5 a month fee, some Web access for the phone and signing up for Foursquare via my laptop computer (doing that on the phone would have been painfully slow – have you used the keyboard on a Nokia 6210?).

Then I entered, again via my laptop, the location details for the area where I live, The Anchorage Islands and my gym, Tweed Fitness Centre (Click on the nav bar menu tab <Add things> and then on the text link <add a new venue>).

Later I headed for the gym and when I got there, fired up the phone’s Web access, went to m.foursquare.com and checked in for the location, Tweed Fitness. When I returned from the gym I looked up my Foursquare page on the laptop and discovered I was now the proud owner of a Newbie badge.

I get to be the mayor

I then checked in at Anchorage Islands.

Then this morning, when we returned from a walk and swim at the beach, I checked in again for Anchorage Islands and having scored the requisite minimum two checkins and apparently having as yet no competitor for the title I am now – or I should say, for now – the mayor of Anchorage Islands.

So the system works, even for those us with less smart cell phones and in places far removed not only from Austin TX home of SXSW  but far even from the USA.

Friends in the neighbourhood

Then I noticed something quite interesting. In the line of images of mayors of various spots around the area, Tweed Heads/Gold Coast Australia, I noticed one for someone I know who lives in San Francisco.

On closer examination I saw that he had been here long enough to become mayor of a restaurant and an apartment block about 5 minutes drive from here. We could have met for a coffee, which would have been nice.

So I am starting to see how Foursquare could be really interesting in terms of connecting people who already know one another, or perhaps people who don’t know one another yet, but have shared interests and are in the neighbourhood.

Friends globally

I can also see benefits in terms of friends around the world. Even without at that point using the facility to tag friends from my Gmail, Twitter or Facebook accounts, I connected effortlessly on Foursquare with friends in Seattle, WA, in London, UK, and in various parts of Australia.

Business

I can already see how I can show clients some possibilities for using Foursquare to grow awareness of their venues or services, and to engage better with and maybe reward customers.

Fun

I admit to experiencing a ridiculous thrill at becoming mayor of Anchorage Islands.

I suspect I will enjoy collecting some more badges.

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Des Walsh is an executive coach. He helps business owners and entrepreneurs worldwide deal effectively with the feeling of being left behind or overwhelmed, or both, about social media – especially LinkedIn - and how to engage safely and effectively with social media to help grow their business. Connect with Des on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter. And to stay in the loop, get Des’s weekly Social Business Bites (select snippets of his "best of the week" online finds).