I’m the Mayor of Starbuck’s

I’m the Mayor of Starbuck’s

I don’t think I get out much, at least not compared to some of my friends. But you may think I do if you’re watching me on Foursquare, the latest social networking/game/time suck to hit computers and mobile devices. Ever since I added the geo-targeting app to my phone last month I’ve been checking in at locations around Reno and beyond to earn 5 “Mayorships” and 7 badges. I’ve even earned the Swarm badge for checking in at the same location as at least 50 other users, which was pretty cool. I have my account linked to Twitter, which is linked to Facebook, so I can selectively share my check-ins with followers and friends as well. This may not have been the best plan as I’ve now convinced my mom, who tracks my activity on Facebook, that I eat out too much.

The question is do I share too much? I wondered that when I first saw Foursquare being used. Frankly, do you care if I’m at Home Depot?  You might if they’re having a huge unpublished sale storewide. That’s useful information and makes check-ins meaningful. Users can also post tips for specific locations which allow you to learn more from the people who know…the regulars. Last month I was in Oakland for a concert and looking for a place to eat before the show. We used Foursquare to see what was nearby, then followed a tip about a great spot with Caribbean-style small plates at killer happy hour prices. Indeed, they did.

The tool has its detractors who say Foursquare is annoying and creepy. Take for instance the creator of NoSquare, an application that helps you avoid Foursquare hangouts.  If you’re not a user, it can be annoying to have your Twitter or Facebook feed filled up with “I’m at Taco Bell” nonsense. And yes, it can be creepy when others know your whereabouts at all times. But that’s where users need think before they post. Some quick tips:

  • Limit direct to Twitter/Facebook check-ins. If you want to share on those networks, consider adding informative updates to your check-in.
  • You don’t have to post every stop you make every day. Aside from over-sharing, it can open you up to danger.
  • Checking in at home means you’re letting everyone know where you live, and by default, letting them know when you’re not there.
  • Have fun. Earn badges. Oust someone as mayor. After all, it’s just a social game.

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