No Perks, No Power … No Point?

27 Sep

I became the mayor of another place on Foursquare yesterday, and again, when that crown badge showed up on my iPhone screen, I thought it’d be accompanied by an explosion of confetti, balloons raining down on me, flashing lights, fanfare, a banner unfurling from the ceiling with my name on it, applause from the other customers, and the manager of the store rushing over to congratulate me on the achievement.

Alright, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration (maybe??), but after the smile went away from my face, and I was done mentally patting myself on the back, and I realized there wasn’t any benefit to being the mayor, the same reaction I always have set in: So what?

A little background if you don’t know what Foursquare is: It’s a geolocation-based “game” that works on multiple levels: As a user, you can share your location with others and earn badges for going certain places or checking in a certain number of times. You can also offer “tips” about the place to other users.

For businesses, it’s a tool that allows you to learn who is coming in to your store or restaurant, how often they do so, and then lets you reward your loyal customers. Some places offer free desserts, drinks, or coffees, or discounts off purchases — small tokens that say, “We appreciate your patronage, come again soon.”

Earlier this summer, I dated someone who used Foursquare, and often when we’d go somewhere, she’d check in and we’d get some kind of reward — a free game of bowling, 20% off time spent playing pool, a free topping on our ice cream/yogurt. I had been skeptical about joining Foursquare (I just didn’t see the appeal), but going places with her convinced me that there was some merit to the whole thing.

So I joined the service a couple months ago, and since then, I’ve checked in to a lot of places and have even become mayor of a handful of them — I’m currently the mayor of Johnny’s Luncheonette in Newton Centre, Brooks Brothers in Chestnut Hill, Friendly’s Express in Brookline, and yes, my own apartment.

I also used to be the mayor of Crazy Dough’s Pizza in Brighton and CVS/Pharmacy in Chestnut Hill, but, well, there were some coups and I got ousted.

At none of those places I just listed is there a benefit or value to being the mayor. No extra sweet potato fries at Johnny’s, no free sundae at Friendly’s, no 20% off my purchase at Brooks Brothers. All I get for achieving mayor status is a scenario like the one I described at the beginning of this blog post: a smile, a mental pat on the back, and some disappointment.

Yesterday when I told someone about my new mayorship, I received the following text message in response: “4 square is dumb to me.” And I couldn’t argue.

Yes, becoming mayor is fun. But that’s all it is.

And that shouldn’t be the case.

I’ve read that only about 20% of Foursquare users share their check-ins publicly (if even that many). Speaking personally, I don’t broadcast mine very often because a) I don’t want people to know where I am all the time, and b) not every place I check in is so exciting or novel.

However, if I was rewarded by places I frequented, then I’d be happy telling everyone I was there — and that they should go there too.

I’d be more likely to suggest going there when I’m with friends and we’re looking for somewhere to go.

I’d be a much stronger brand advocate, not because I’m being rewarded for being one, but because the business has in essence told me it appreciates me, and is making it worthwhile and fun to spend my money there.

As a result, with so few businesses that I patronize taking advantage of Foursquare, I feel like there’s a huge missed opportunity.

Which is not to say I’m going to stop checking in places on Foursquare anytime soon. I may not get recognized for being the mayor now, but my hope is that more businesses will catch on to the value of this service sooner rather than later.

And when they do, I’ll already have so many check-ins that they will be more valuable, and will be worth more to me in reality than they are in my head.

2 Responses to “No Perks, No Power … No Point?”


  1. 5 Reasons Why I Still Use Foursquare « Martin's Musings - August 6, 2012

    […] While checking in can be fun, simply being Mayor or getting a couple points is not enough of a perk to make using Foursquare totally worth it. One of my biggest gripes about Foursquare is that not enough businesses take advantage of the opportunity to reward their loyal customers. […]

  2. Are You Ready to Check in to a Life Less Social? | Martin's Musings - March 6, 2013

    […] has never been the most necessary social app, and there was never any confetti or public recognition if you used it a lot. Actual benefits, like a free dessert or appetizer, have been few and far […]

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