How does Foursquare affect our relationship with places and brands?
Emily Carr in Brand, Retail, Retail, Technology

For the last few weeks, I’ve been using the Foursquare application on my iPhone, “checking in” at each location once I arrive. This geo-locator application now has a following of over 3 million, but I hadn’t given much thought to using it until I heard you get could get coupons. I’m all about a good deal.

As an electronic media and app junkie, I have found it moderately interesting. Although I’m not interested in sharing my status with online friends because of privacy concerns, I can still see who else around me is using Foursquare, or if I’m at a location that is popular with other Foursquare users. I’ve also been rewarded with my first coupon, a Gap offer for 25% off. Foursquare was also quick to reward me with “Badges” for my accomplishments as a newbie. Facebook has also recently launched a “Places” feature with the same functionality, but I’m going to stay away from it due to privacy concerns and the lack of existing rewards (at least so far).

But what does this mean to my connection to a place? I think that first of all, it helps to build loyalty. I’m more likely to go to a place repeated times in hopes of becoming a “mayor” (the user who has checked in at a place more than any other) or at least to improve my points rating. The points system currently has no practical application, but I’m hoping that I will be rewarded for my status as an early adopter at some point in time.

I think that it also encourages exploration. I’m usually motivated enough by curiosity or buzz to try a new restaurant, store, or bar, but now I’m also curious about what Foursquare will bring when I check in. Are there other Foursquare users there? Will there be coupons? Can I unseat someone as mayor? Can I be the first mayor? These are all questions that help me to get out there and try someplace new.

Right now I have one friend on Foursquare. It’s very possible that I have other friends who are using it, but so far I haven’t asked and we probably already know way too much about what’s going from Facebook that we don’t need more information. However, I can see greater potential with this application once one has a greater network, especially if you’re trying to manage a complicated evening out/expedition with a lot of friends and keep track of them. It may make managing a challenging physical space more easy on the virtual front.

For now, I’m just going to stay focused on becoming the mayor of my apartment building. Five days to go!

Emily Carr is a former project manager and brand strategist in Gensler’s Washington, DC office. Trained as a writer and graphic designer, she has spent much of her career in web and interactive design and continues to focus on how digital strategies can be integrated into spatial projects. Emily is a LEED-accredited professional and a regular author and speaker for AIGA, the professional association for design.
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