Foursquare for Dummies

What is Foursquare?

Foursquare is a service that helps find where your friends are hanging out and offers tips from other users on what to do once you get there. You use your phone to “check in” at different places you visit, from bars and restaurants to parks, museums and even the grocery store! Foursquare rewards you for checking in with badges, points and mayorships.

Use your mobile phone to check in to venues on FoursquareHow do I get started?

Download one of Foursquare’s mobile apps on your phone. They provide apps for iPhoneAndroidBlackberry and Palm phones. Third party developers have built applications for other platforms, likeSymbian and Windows Mobile. If there’s no app for your phone, you can check in through Foursquare’s mobile site.

Register for an account on Foursquare’s website or through the mobile app. Be sure to upload a profile picture so you can be eligible for mayorships! Link your Facebook and Twitter accounts to make it easy to find your friends and share your current location on your favorite social networking sites.

Check in at the places you visit

Click Check In to tell your Foursquare friends where you areChecking in lets your friends know where you are. To check in, open the mobile app on your phone and Foursquare will use your phone’s GPS to find your current location. Click the “places” button or tab to see a list of nearby places where you can check in. If the place you’re looking for isn’t in the list, add it directly from your phone!

When you check in, you’ll have the option to share your location with your Foursquare friends and with Facebook and Twitter. You can change the default settings for these buttons on yoursettings page. If you check in without sharing with your friends, Foursquare will show your location as “off the grid,” so no one else will know exactly where you are.

Check out tips and leave them for others

Tips let you know what to check out and what to avoid when you check in on FoursquareOne of Foursquare’s greatest features is the ability to leave tips on a venue. People leave tips about their favorite dishes, things to do, how to get a discount and even where to find clean bathrooms. You’ll find tips like “the Gyro Pizza is the best you’ll ever eat” or “avoid the hot and spicy burrito — it’s neither hot nor spicy.”

You can check out the tips left by other users or leave tips for other people to find directly from your mobile app. If any of your friends have left a tip on a venue you’re checking in to — or one nearby — you’ll see a popup on your phone letting you know what they recommend. Brands like the New York TimesTLC and the cast of Showtime’s The Real L Word have also left tips on venues for you to check out.

You can track things you’ve done by clicking “I’ve done this” next to a tip or you can add something that sounds good to your to do list. You’ll be reminded to try it the next time you check in there.

Being mayor of a Foursquare venue shows everyone that you really  love a placeBecome the mayor by checking in more than anyone else

The mayor is the person who’s checked in the most times at a venue over the past 60 days. Everyone knows you really love a place when you visit enough times to be the mayor. You’ll get recognized on the venue’s Foursquare profile page and other users will see your picture when they check in. Some companies, like Starbucks, reward their mayors with discounts and freebies!

Badges? Points?

Each time you check in, Foursquare awards you points. The more times you check in, the more points you get. You can compare yourself to your nearby friends and Foursquare’s 1.5-million-plus other users on the leaderboard in your mobile app. The points don’t really do anything, but they’re fun to get an idea where you stand against other Foursquare users.

Badges are a fun reward for checking in a certain number of times or at certain places. Some badges are sponsored by different companies, like the History ChannelWall Street Journal andBravo. Here are a just few examples of badges you could earn:

BadgeUnlock TextHow to Earn It
Explorer Badge
You’ve checked in to 25 different venues! Check in at 25 different venues
Zoetrope Badge
That brings you to 10 movie theater checkins! Now, can you pick us up a large popcorn while you’re up? Check in at 10 venues tagged “theater”
Swarm badge
50+ people are also checked-in here – it’s a foursquare flashmob! Check in at a venue with at least 49 other Foursquare users
Historian Badge
Congrats from History Channel on unlocking America one check-in at a time. Thomas Jefferson would be proud. Follow the History Channel and check in at three of their recommended venues

Earning a badge on Foursquare is meant to be a surprise, so Foursquare doesn’t publish an official list of all the badges or tell you how to earn them. User Tony Felice keeps a great list ofall the Foursquare badges on his site.

Your phone will show you specials nearby and can even be used as a  coupon at venues that offer specialsGet a Discount

Some businesses have started to use Foursquare as a “digital loyalty card” to track users who visit their stores. To reward you for being a regular customer, they might offer you a free drink every fifth visit or 10% off your bill the tenth time you check in. Other places offer discounts to the mayor. You’ll see any specials a business is offering in your mobile app when you check out the list of nearby venues.

Need Help?

Foursquare offers a GetSatisfaction site where you can get help from other users. If you spot a duplicate or a venue with incorrect information, you can submit them there to be corrected. On Twitter you can get quick answers from another Foursquare user, @FoursquareHelp.