Unless you have been hidden under a rock for the last twelve months you must have heard about Foursquare which has been the latest geo-location craze to hit social media in 2010. Basically the premise is you have to travel around checking Chris Norton's Foursquarein to locations near you securing points for travelling around. If you “check-in” to one location more than someone else you become the Mayor of that location and that generally means very little. In the US, and a small splattering of companies in the UK, this can entitle you to a few treats such as a coffee or pizza in your local Starbucks or Pizza Hut respectively. However, many of the big hitters in the world of social media are still remain unconvinced by the network’s usefulness and find it a tad tiresome. In fact, recently I heard someone say they found the location check-ins, which now feature on Twitter and Facebook, so tiring that they were unfollowing people who did it all the time. I have been playing with it a while now and can see the marketing potential but, although it is the most popular location based game, it’s still some way off reaching the tipping point as its mostly used by early adopters and the geeks (sorry guys). At the last count it had half a million users compared with Facebook’s 300 million – see what I mean. So we do need to be realistic as to how many people are actually using it. A friend of mine recently attended the Glastonbury festival and checked his Foursquare and found that he was the only person from the whole of his network in attendance. FourwhereHowever, that said as it has a fun new API which quite a few developers have been having a play around creating little applications to make Foursquare more useful. One example is Fourwhere which is a fun little app that mashes up checkins and local comments from Foursquare, Yelp and Gowalla. It makes it easier to visualize comments/tips left by users. So if you were looking for a place to meet with a  client or go out for a bite to eat, you can use it to find local cafes and restaurants nearby and use the reviews to make an informed decision. One of the most interesting new apps that have been created is Future Checkin which has just been created by some clever people. It works alongside Foursquare and allows you to choose your favourite venues. The clever bit is you can then set it to automatically check-in when you arrive at one of those selected venues. I have to admit I find this a bit too much and am slightly concerned about privacy issues, it takes me back to the amusing site (Pleaserobme) as it completely removes the human touch but it does make the checking in process easier. Here is a video to explain how the app works. So location based social media games are useful because you can get local tips and reviews direct to your mobile and the more people that use them the more relevant and insightful the tips are likely to be. Marketers will no doubt soon be able to run ‘promoted tips’ in a similar vein to the promoted tweets option in Twitter. Personally I am not sure if this automatic checking in just turns the whole thing into a bit of a numbers game with the net result being people not playing anymore and moving onto the next latest craze. Do you think automatically checking in is a good thing or is it the same as auto following on Twitter?

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About Chris Norton

Chris Norton is the founder of Prohibition and an award winning communications consultant with more than twenty years’ experience. He was a lecturer at Leeds Beckett University and has had a varied PR career having worked both in-house and in a number of large consultancies. He is an Integrated PR and social media blogger and writes on a wide variety of blogs across a huge amount of topics from digital marketing, social media marketing right through to technology and crisis management.