How To Play Foursquare

It came to me today that since I’m usually at the top of my Foursquare friends list, that I may know how to do Foursquare right. while my high score of 395 may not be super impressive, I’m consistently in that neighborhood with just under 3000 checkins as of today.

The biggest secret is to just checkin everywhere that can be a proper noun in which your feet stop for longer than a minute. There are apps that will remind you when you’re sitting still for too long, and will alert you. From looking at, I can see that I was not doing this a year ago. I’d checkin only at interesting places, and not everything in my path. In other words, I did not take mayorship into account, and thats where some of the biggest points are.

The way I play the Location Game is simple. I have a routine for going to work that involves traveling by train. I go from home (checkin), to the station (checkin), to the parking garage (checkin), to the platform (checkin), to the specific train I’m riding (checkin), to the platform I arrive at (checkin), to the station I arrive at (checkin), and to the office building (checkin). In the evening, i do it all over again. If I happen to go to another office building, there’s another few checkins. If I have to catch a connecting train, there’s a few more.

Lately I average about 20 checkins per day, which adds up to a lot per year. Why so many? Well, at any one point, I may have to wait at one of those spots, and well… that’s where I am at that moment. Most of these places are places that I hold a mayorship at, so they add up to big points. If you’re hitting a location consistently, you get extra points for being a frequent flier for that week, and for continuous weeks, and for returning after a lengthy absence. Weekly ritual locations such as gas stations are also good for mayorships, since everyone else there is only coming once a week or so. And we know you’ll out-checkin them, right?!

Weekends can break a streak since most of us don’t have to go to work those days, but it presents new opportunities for checkin points and mayorships. In fact, stopping at a new place every day will break the monotony of your routine, get you points for your first time there, and could lead to a new non-Foursquare IRL enjoyment.

After a while of checking in to so many places every day, checkin fatigue sets in. There are a number of apps that will do automatic checkins for you, but reliability is a key factor. Most of these apps, even in the foreground, will forget to remind you, will lose your position, and will simply see you as being in the wrong place. Reliable GPS and wifi service in buildings is key, but will not improve until location tracking is taken more seriously. Those can only be seen as helpers, but serious players will want to make sure every checkin counts.

Another reason for checkins is unlocking daily deals. A lot of places participate in loyalty programs and there are plenty of sales with BOGO and percentage off and bonus items that can be taken advantage of. These places pay money to be in those programs and you are helping Foursquare by showing that these programs work, and you are helping the vendor by giving them a return on their investment. Plus it helps you save money.

The number of people playing Foursquare is pretty low, and even lower for Facebook, Gowalla, Google Places, and Twitter. This means opportunities for mayorships are always available. An app like Mayorama can be very helpful in showing which places are ripe for the picking. Use a site like One More Checkin to see where your next badge opportunities lie.

Checking in to places with no signal can be trouble, since you have no 3G/4G or wifi to take advantage of. In some cases the available wifi must be subscribed to, such as with XFinity, so you have no options for checkin unless you already use those services. These are lost opportunities for vendors to capture loyalty.

Lastly, checkins can be informative and educational. There are a lot of sites that will watch your Foursquare status and tell you about bus and train schedules, nearby friends, historical facts and more. Connecting your Foursquare account to these services can make you a winner IRL.