Tell your friends where you’re at by checking in to venues


Explore new venues and stay social with your smartphone and Foursquare.

As the Midwest starts to thaw, the itch to get outside is going to hit guys and gals alike. How will you enjoy your city? Sure, there’s always the public swimming pool and your favorite park to walk the dog. What about a good place to eat? Maybe you’re looking for a restaurant with a patio? Before you speed-dial Dominos again, take a few minutes and let me fill you in on Foursquare, a fantastic way to explore your city and truly see what it has to offer.Okay, so what exactly is Foursquare? Just like Facebook and Twitter, Foursquare is a social networking system (i.e. you create a profile page for yourself, then connect it to your friends, creating a linked online community).

By “checking in,” you tell your friends where you are, and earn points and badges in the process. Points and badges are not redeemable for prizes, but then again neither are the countless crops of beans you have harvested on Farmville.

Every time you check-in, you are awarded points, which are tallied and reflected in real-time on a leader board made up of your Foursquare friends.

Foursquare awards you badges for checking into a type venue multiple times or a combination of venues. These badges are like trophies or bragging rights, and they represent your presence and dedication in the Foursquare community (I currently have 39 of them).

Some badges are really easy to get, like the “Newbie” badge, which you earn after your first official check in.

Others, like the “7-10 Split” badge, take more time (checking into three different bowling alleys). Trying to get as many badges as offered will help you discover new pizza joints (“Pizzaiolo” badge) or convince you it is finally time to see an art exhibit (“Warhol” badge).

National Brands like The History Channel and Bravo have caught on to the success and growing interest of Foursquare, and have partnered up to release special badges that anyone can unlock by checking into recommended venues in cities all over the country.

The National Football League teamed up with Foursquare for Super Bowl XLV, offering a series of badges available for fans on game day.

Foursquare also released a series of five collegiate badges just for the students who explore their campus and check-in along the way.

Another reason to get involved in Foursquare is for the user-generated tips. Due to the gaming nature of Foursquare, users are encouraged to leave tips for others. Many venues already have dozens of tips recommending menu items or recommended times of the day when the lines are smaller. New tips are added to the list that automatically pop up after you check into a venue. It’s like getting insider information.

Perhaps the best reason to use Foursquare (for both businesses and patrons) is the ability to give incentives to users. Establishments can give discounts or free stuff for first-time check-ins, milestone check-ins (every fifth check-in, 20th check-in, etc), or when the mayor checks-in. This “mayor” is not a figure in public office, but rather a mayor of a venue. A mayorship is awarded to any user who frequents a specific venue the most in a two-week period. You can hold multiple mayorships at once; and yes, there’s a badge for that.

The beauty of Foursquare, unlike other social networks, is that it’s meant to be used on your GPS-enabled phone. This makes it strictly mobile, forcing you to get off your computer chair and get some fresh air. By letting Foursquare know precisely where you are, it can suggest nearby businesses with special offers for checking them out, or let you know what your friends are up to.

Alright, before all of the negative comments about stalking and privacy start spewing out, let me clear the air/ You have complete control over who sees your check-ins. You can share your location with just your Foursquare friends, you can link your other accounts (Facebook and Twitter), or share with no one at all. When you create your account, you have the option of adding friends from either your Facebook or Twitter account, so you know exactly who is seeing where you go.

So now you have a new social media tool/game to experience. It’s free, and it’s growing. More and more brands are offering badges, and businesses are adding discounts. The app is available for nearly all smart phones. Check out for more information.

Once you start exploring, make sure to follow @4SqSODAK on Twitter or find them on Facebook to get weekly tips from users right here in South Dakota.