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Foursquare Etiquette: Is there a wrong or right way to check-in?

Foursquare Etiquette - Is there a wrong or right way to check-in or to use Foursquare?Foursquare Cop I am not. But, over the last couple of weeks, I've taken part in some interesting discussions about the right or wrong ways to use Foursquare*. We've even asked if there is such a thing as "Foursquare Etiquette".

Without naming names (ahem), I have been encountering different Foursquare practices that make me wonder whether or not they're good ways to use the platform. Questions like - Are you supposed to check-in to places that you're only passing through? Should you check-in to your own place of work? Is it okay to do retroactive check-ins? - have come up during some discussions.

So, I decided to do a search on this and I came across a number of posts that offer different personal opinions on the matter. Some I agree with, some I don't. But, after reading a few, I noticed that there are some recurring points, which include the following Dos and Don'ts:

Do...

  • Check-in to places when you're out and about. This means no 'home' check-ins. Other than the fact that it's probably best not to share your address online, the general idea of Foursquare is to track your whereabouts when you're 'out' (see 'Days Out' stats).
  • Add a new place only when you really can't find a check-in for where you are. And, if there's any reason to add a 'sub-location' in an already existing location. Otherwise, really, what's the point?
  • Also, just add and check-in to "real" places... Although it may seem funny or clever to check in to your "happy place" or to say you're "stuck in traffic" or that you're in "la-la land", they sort of don't really do much for the general Foursquare community.
  • Do monitor and limit the Foursquare sharing in your other social networks. Sure, you can check-in to every single place you go to if you really want. But, not every single check-in is worth sharing on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Just share when you actually have something to say about the place you're checking in to.
  • Do help make the Foursquare community more useful! Offer tips, edit locations with correct information... And, if you're the owner of a venue, offer real specials and create deals.

Don't...

  • Check-in to places when you're not really there. 'nuff said, yes?
  • Check-in to places if you're just passing through. If you're going for a walk in the mall, why check-in to every single shop that you pass by if you don't even go in for a browse? Same thing with train/tram/bus stops.
  • Add people in your Foursquare friends network unless you're comfortable sharing your whereabouts with them.
  • Make checking in a priority - unless you're in a really important event where it's necessary to do a check-in. Or, if you're hanging out with other Foursquare geeks who understand the whole point. Otherwise, if it's a social event with a lot of non-Foursquare folks, just check-in when it seems polite to be looking at your mobile device.

Of course, there are some points of contention on these check-in matters:

Should you check in to your place of work? The idea for most commercial establishments is to allow customers/clients to compete for check-in points and mayorships. This is something I raised with The Sceptre, for example, who created a Foursquare identity for their establishment and ended up checking in to their own venue, so they have become mayor. With that kind of practice, no one else can become mayor. That seems like a poor way to encourage check-ins for customers to me. Having said that, when I raised this issue with them (along with a few other things) via their Twitter account, they were very responsive. So, let's see how this goes.

But, what about offices or other work establishments that don't necessarily cater for public visits? Should staff be checking in? If yes, what's the purpose (other than mayorship glory)? If not, why not?

[My take on this: The former is a no-no (shops, restaurants, pubs, etc), but the latter should be okay - unless the organisation develops a different approach to their Foursquare strategy.]

Now, what about retroactive check-ins? If you actually visited a place (and you really did something in there), should you check-in after you left? And, if it's okay - for how long after? An hour, a couple of hours, a day... a week? Or, should check-ins only be allowed if you're physically present at that particular time?

[My take: They're okay - to a point. If you just left (and you're not in another place of check-in nature altogether), then it's okay. That usually means a window of up to a couple of hours max, maybe. Otherwise, let it go.]

How about if there are several listings of one place, should you check-in to all of them? Of course, it seems like a good idea - so you can actively compete with mayorship. But, that also means racking up points that don't really add up properly. So, is that really a good thing?

[My take: No. I pick one check-in point and stick with that.]

So, what do you think? Do you agree with these Dos and Don'ts? What's your personal Foursquare etiquette like? Should we encourage Foursquare ethics?

"Wherever you are, be all there." - Jim Elliot

* Foursquare is a geomapping / geolocation tool that enables people to "check-in" to places and share their whereabouts in their respective social networks. Other than telling people where they are, Foursquare users are able to gain points and badges through check-ins.

About the Author Shai Coggins (MTeach, MSoc Sci App Psych)

Shai has been managing and blogging here at ShaiCoggins.com for 17 years. Here, she writes about creativity, productivity, and how to recharge for a better, happier lifestyle. She is the author of Today: Life Journal, Colour Bliss: Kaleidoscopes, and a little known children's book. A serial entrepreneur, Shai also currently runs Vervely.com, a boutique digital media agency offering online content, community, and conversion marketing services. Her blogging experience and digital work have been featured in various media, including being listed in Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list. Originally from Manila, Shai lived in Singapore and the USA before moving to Australia with her British husband. They have two children, a pet bunny, and a rambunctious rescue Labrador.

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