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A Foursquare Check-In Addict's Story of Recovery

Cole Godsey

My story begins on January 5, 2010 when I tapped my first Foursquare check-in at a Skyline Chili and ends today … 60 days since my 5,000th (and last) check-in on Foursquare. Since that last check-in, I’ve had daily urges to whip out my iPhone and tap that Foursquare icon. I know I should move the icon from its coveted position on my home screen and maybe even bury the icon in my “elephant graveyard” folder labeled “Infrequent.” But alas, one day at a time.

I’m many years past the millennial classification that is normally tagged as the mobile generation, but ever since I got my first PC back in 1986 – an AT&T 6300 with a whopping 10 MB hard drive – technology has been my passion. Never really been much of a “gamer,” but my technology exploration quest inevitably led me to mobile and its never ending plethora of apps. So, in early 2010 I stumbled upon Foursquare and my check-in addiction got started.

If you’ve gotten this far in the post, I will assume that you know a little something about Foursquare so I will skip any major app overview. But in short, Foursquare leverages location, recognition, gamification, and rewards to engage users of their app.

Location today is very different than in the early days of Foursquare. Today, it is rare to try and check-in to a location on Foursquare and not find a listing for the business. Back is 2010 I remember regularly adding locations and admittedly enjoying the process. The feeling of helping to add to the merchant ecosystem for some reason was a thrill. At one time I was not only adding new listings in Foursquare, but also in Gowalla … an early Foursquare competitor that fell by the wayside.

It’s the other three elements of Foursquare – Gamification, Recognition, and Rewards – that finally lost their luster for me and had me turn my mobile behavior around. In retrospect, I think my realization of a need for a change started around the time that Foursquare released their companion app Swarm. This required me to start the check-in process on Foursquare but then complete the process through Swarm … still scratching my head on that one. And hey, 5,000 check-ins on Foursquare and no fireworks, no new badge, no recognition? What’s up with that?

Then, mysteriously, Mayorships disappeared! Eliminating my subconscious (and silly) thoughts that telling a business that I was the mayor of their establishment elevated my standing in their eyes. The few times I tried to mention my mayorship status I got the obvious reaction of “What’s Foursquare?” BTW, Mayorships returned in June 2015 but that part of the addiction grip wasn’t strong enough to suck me back in. With the return of this self-aggrandizement enabler came some weird tinkling coins that were awarded in various denominations when you check-in. Still, I can’t figure out what I’m supposed to do with the 1,408 coins in my account?

But probably the biggest contributor to my check-in recovery was finally realizing that after 5,000 check-ins I maybe got, at best, 3 rewards pushed my way … a free dessert, a $5.00 off special, and something else so inconsequential I can’t even remember it. I think where Foursquare really messed up was in not enough engagement with their merchants, letting them know how to claim their business, and then educating them on how to use the platform to build their business.

Many of the local retailers I frequent have implemented loyalty programs like Belly and Flok that actually reward me for my patronage. I started to begin seeing the light! Heck, even a local sports bar – with a Chicken Philly to die for – started rolling out the Flok program. In the 3 months I’ve been in their loyalty program, I’ve received a free sub on my birthday, a free soft drink for joining the program and a $2.00 off reward that miraculously appeared when I drove by the location. I frequently receive push notifications keeping me engaged with specials that ride along with the Cavs games that are happening.

So there you have it, mobile check-in addiction can be overcome if you honestly evaluate the question … what value are receiving? If your answer is “very little,” take a look around for what mobile loyalty programs your local retailers are using and take that first step towards rewards. Smart phones are ubiquitous now and retailers have noticed this and are quickly shifting from old-fashioned plastic card programs to mobile loyalty. Get rewarded, get recognized and have fun!


Article written by Merrell Sheehan, posted by SB

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