I promised this post in early summer, but I’ve been waiting until I had a clear sense of what life on FourSquare is like before I wrote it. I feel like I’ve been on FourSquare long enough now to give a sense of what kind of things people should stay clear of. So, here are my suggestions for the three rules of etiquette of FourSquare.
Feel free to post a comment with your own FourSquare pet peeves or to disagree with one of mine.
1. Think before you sync: If you forget every other rule, remember this one. Technology allows us to do many cool things — including syncing, but that doesn’t mean we have to do them. What is syncing? It’s when you set up one social medium to automatically update another social medium. Good idea, right? Well, sometimes.
I had synced my Twitter to my Facebook page at one point, so every tweet turned up as a Facebook status update. The problem was: My followers on Twitter are very different from my Facebook friends, so I was sending messages to the wrong audience. That gets annoying quick, as a real-life friend cautioned me.
Same thing can happen with FourSquare. The application allows you to update Twitter or Facebook every time you check in, get a mayorship, lose a mayorship, earn a badge. You may be tempted to do this. Resist. Resist. Resist. None of your Twitter followers want to know how many times a day you go to Starbucks.
My rule: I set up my FourSquare so that the only time it updates my Twitter account is when I earn — or lose — a mayorship. My thinking is this is a rare enough occurrence that it won’t annoy. (Hope that’s true.) Also, syncing this aspect enables me to connect with my FourSquare friends on Twitter.
For example, when I lost the mayorship of the Tim Horton’s coffee shop near campus, the woman who won it announced her new mayorship online. I @replied her, joking that she had ruined my day for stealing Tim Horton’s. She consoled me. Granted, this is hardly a high-level form of relationship, but we made a connection. Now she is someone I know on Twitter, not just a follower.
For another look at the sync or not debate, read this post by Steve Buttry.
2. Search before you add a venue: At one point, a Mobil Mart near my house was on FourSquare three ways. One with a street address. One without a street address. One as Mobile Mary (not Mart). I know how this happens. You go to check in, and the location you’re at (such as this Mobile station) doesn’t immediately pop up in the FourSquare queue. So you decide to add it. But you’re on your cell phone, so you make a typo because you’re typing quickly or your can’t remember the street name. Then two more people do the same thing.
The result is: Multiple check-in locations for the same spot.
Why is this a problem? Well, in the whole scheme of problems such as childhood cancer and world poverty, it’s not. But in the microcosm of the social media world, it’s annoying because when other people go to check in, they aren’t sure which is the real location. The result is multiple mayorships of the same spot. Again, not cataclysmic, but it does make FourSquare a bit messy and less fun.
There’s little cache to winning the mayorship if you know anyone can do the same by just creating a duplicate location.
And if a company wants to offer coupons or specials to people who earn mayorships or even just check in, you darn tootin’ want to make sure you’re checking in at the bonafide location.
So, search before you add a venue. Sometimes, venues don’t just pop up. It could be that your GPS is off slightly and reading you in a different location. It could be you just need to hit “refresh.”
FourSquare will often warn you if you try to add a location that already exists, but if you misspell it or don’t add the address, often this warning won’t happen. Doing a quick search for the venue doesn’t seem like too much work, now does it?
3. Don’t lie. I may get some heat for this one because I know some people consider the fun of FourSquare is to check into Starbucks while standing in their office a quarter-mile from Starbucks. But nobody likes a cheater.
Yes, compared to robbing a bank or cheating on your income tax, lying on FourSquare pales. But remember what you learned in kindergarten: It doesn’t matter who wins or loses. It’s how you play the game.
So to check into a location you must actually be at the location. That means you didn’t just drive by or you didn’t just think about the place. And if you forget to check in and try to do it later to make up? Well, that’s probably OK in my book, but I’d worry if that becomes a habit. Really.
One exception to this rule: fake locations.
I have no problem with someone checking into “hell” or “heaven” while obviously still alive. I kind of like the metaphysical locations. But for brick-and-mortal places, please, actually walk in the door before you check in.
What do you think?