The etiquette of FourSquare

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.

foursquareFeel 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?


Like what you’re reading, subscribe

10 thoughts on “The etiquette of FourSquare

  1. Thanks for the link, Gina. I think Foursquare is addressing the duplication issue (though the example I have illustrates that it doesn’t have it worked out yet). I tried to check into the Red Velvet Cupcakery (what does it say that I’m the mayor there, and it hasn’t even been open a week?), and saw that someone had already created “Red Velvet Cupcaker” at the same address. So I was going to create a duplicate just to get it spelled right. And Foursquare wouldn’t let me do it. (Just now, though, I went online to the venue and was able to edit it.) Not sure I could do that from the app, which is how I check in, of course.

  2. I’ll add a Foursquare syncing tip: While I don’t do any syncing automatically, the Foursquare mobile app lets you do an actual tweet. So it’s not the automated message just saying I’m checking in. But I can say what I’m doing, as I often do in a tweet, and Foursquare adds the location. It’s the auto-tweets that people find annoying (or that I do anyway).

  3. Steve,

    Thanks for the tip on the syncing.

    I do think FourSquare is working on the duplication issue. They also have deputized people to go in and delete the duplicates. So in time, that will cease to be a problem.


  4. Thanks for the article!
    I do agree with you especially for the second point. Every time I want to check in to a place, sometimes it gives me multiple check-in locations for the same exact spot. It confuses me as I would check in to Location A one day, and the next I would check in to Location B when actually Location A is Location B!! It is so annoying!

  5. I was just recently introduced to Foursquare by a fellow employee and the “etiquette” you pointed out about the annoyances people have when receiving your Facebook status updates whenever you make a tweet are spot-on. Quickly received “responses” about that! Excellent points you bring up Gina!

  6. Gina, I really love this article. While there are tons of articles covering Twitter, Facebook and the like, there isn’t much quality info on the proper use of FourSquare – it’s still so new to a lot of people.

    Thanks for covering it so thoroughly!

  7. As a local business owner, FourSquare has a certain appealed we’ve decided to explore. We’ve just signed up recently and were not sure whether syncing is the way to go. What a timely article and good points, Gina. Thanks!

  8. Gina,

    Great post! I’ve been dabbling with 4sq for a few months now, and I’m still not sure how much I really get out of it. While it’s pretty fun to overthrow a family member or friend as a mayor, I haven’t really found the value that I think the tool potentially has to offer.

    That being said, I primarily use this tool on my iPhone. After reading your post, I feel that I definitely need to log-in on my laptop and check my preferences. Come to think of it…I’m not sure why I haven’t done this yet. Maybe I just haven’t thought about it. I monitor my Twitter, Facebook, Reader and blogs pretty consistently, but 4sq hasn’t been at the forefront of my social media mind.

    Thanks for the tips on the lovely little tool!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>