What is FourSquare & How Does it Work?

Foursquare is a location-based mobile platform that allows you to “check-in” with a smartphone app or SMS. You are able to share your check-in with friends, earn “badges” or become the “Mayor” of locations, and earn points with this virtual game.

What do you mean I can be the “Mayor” or I get a “badge” when I check-in?

The thing with Foursquare is that in it’s totality, it’s a game.

You may receive the “Swarm” badge if 50 or more people have checked in with you at a location. You may get the “Player, please!” badge if you’ve checked in with 3 or more people of the opposite sex. Don’t forget the “Super User” badge if you’ve checked in to more than 30 places in one month.


The badges, for the most part, don’t really give you a lot perks other than bragging rights with your Foursquare friends.

However, the Mayorships do sometimes provide rewards. A Mayor is the user with the most number of days with check-ins at a specific place within the past 60 days.

Once you are the Mayor, you can be bumped by another user. Maybe someone who doesn’t think you’re doing a great job in office. But truthfully, it’s someone who then has more check-ins now than you do at that establishment.

Several businesses offer perks to their Mayor. Starbucks and Buffalo Wild Wings to name a few. You can receive them without even hitting the campaign trail.

From a business standpoint, it’s smart to offer perks to a Mayor. They realize you have to check-in more than one time to then receive a perk. It builds loyalty and keeps someone coming back.

Who is using Foursquare?

If you’re not, you should be. There are over 250,000 businesses using the merchant platform and Foursquare has over 8 million users worldwide.

How to use Foursquare?

After installing the app and registering online at foursquare.com, you are then able to start checking in at locations.

When you reach your destination, open the app and click on “check-in.” The service will figure out where you are and give you a list of possible options. If you prefer to not wait for the list, simply type the establishments name in the “search places” box.


If you do not see the location on the list, you can easily add it yourself and then proceed to check-in.

You will then have 140 characters to give a little bit of detail about where you are checking in. I highly suggest using this option. If you are at Chipotle – tell us what you’re going to order or why you go there. Promote why you are visiting this location.

You also have the option to push this check-in through to various social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook.

If you don’t fill out the 140 characters and you push it through to Twitter or Facebook, it will simply say “I’m at ________” and give the URL.

Once you’re checked in, you will have the ability to see what other Foursquare users are there and if there are any specials at that location.

For example, a Mexican restaurant that I visit with friends after school offers a buy 1, get the 2nd Margarita for $1 if you check-in.

Simply show your server or sales associate the screen on your phone and start receiving these rewards.


Why use Foursquare?

*For the gamer in you* – My husband and I have a little competition at several locations where we’re trying to beat the other one out for Mayorships. We’re always racing to see who is the first to check-in.

*For the perks* – Through checking in, I’ve paid $1 for margaritas. I’ve received free chips & salsa. I’ve received 30% off a pair of shoes at Steve Madden. Look at the perks. There’s typically always something in your area.

*For the companies that are listening* – As we all know from using social media, there are a lot of brands that do listen. I’ve had big companies and
small companies both talk to me after checking in at their location, thanking me for visiting. When I send out my media kit to a potential brand,
I add this to my list of social media strategies that I can provide for them in our partnership.

What about safety?

What if you don’t want someone seeing where you’re at all the time? Can you still participate?

The answer is yes. When you check-in, you have the ability to say whether that check-in is shared with your Foursquare friends and if it is pushed through to Twitter and Facebook.

You can have private check-ins that only you will see which allows you to still capitalize on the perks that Foursquare offers.


For more on Foursquare, be sure to visit foursquare.com. Let the games begin!



  1. Jessica

    Great post Elena! It was helpful for me when I got started on Foursquare. You are a good teacher.

    • Elena

      Aw, thanks! I think I owed you since you put up with all my wp.org questions!

  2. Maegan

    Good post! I was doing foursquare and earned a few mayorships but didn’t know about the perks so uninstalled and quit, couldn’t figure out the reason for checking in … now I’m thinking of jumping back onboard!

    • Elena

      You definitely should! There are a lot of great perks out there to get. We’re out in California on vacation right now and I checked in today at Pinkberry and received a buy one, get one free yogurt!

  3. Paula@Simply Sandwich

    Thanks so much for the information. I had no idea how this all worked and it seems pretty cool! 🙂

    • Elena

      You’re welcome! Hope it helps!

  4. Mrs. Jen B

    I had no idea there were perks involved. Still not sure about using it but it’s good to know that I can determine who my location gets sent to.

    • Elena

      Yes – great perks. You can definitely use it and still keep all your information private if you choose.

  5. Grumpy Grateful Mom

    You explained it so well. I think I need to get my own smart phone. I am tired of stealing my husband’s phone.

    And, I think my life is definitley in need of badges, rewards, and discounts!

    • Elena

      Yes – you definitely need to get a new phone. I agree! 😉

  6. NotJustAnotherJennifer

    Interesting! I always avoided it because it was broadcasting my location to the world. Didn’t realize you could privatize it. Will have to look into it. Great guest post!

    • Elena

      Thank you! Yes, you absolutely always have that option.

  7. Sherri

    This whole thing confused the heck out of me…until I read this! Thanks again for setting me straight on techie stuff!

    • Elena

      Well I’m glad I helped!

  8. Amanda

    I want to become Mayor of Sonic. It’s seriously my goal on Four Square.

    If you can’t get me to join in to something any other way, make it a game…that gets me going every time.

    Thanks for this, Elena. I really had no clue how to search for places before this!

    • Elena

      It’s funny – some places it’s so hard to get the mayorships. Getting them at Starbucks locations is really hard! Happy this gave you some more information on the tool!

  9. Carri

    Have you seen that, sometimes, FourSquare will list the deals for the areas you’re in? For instance, if you check in at a gas station and there’s a Mexican joint across the street doing $1 margaritas, it will show up!

    • Elena

      Who doesn’t love to pump gas and see $1 margaritas across the street? 😉 I’ve noticed that it has been showing lately the special deals nearby, rather than just at that location. Kind of a cool feature because then I remember those things when I’m in that area.

  10. Roxanne

    Interesting. Thanks for the post. I’m going to have to check this out.

    • Elena

      It’s definitely a fun social media tool!

  11. Dana K

    I’ve been Yelping for years so I have never even looked into Foursquare. Does Foursquare offer reviews, too?

    • Elena

      You can leave tips. If you look at my homepage you can see tips I’ve left for certain locations. Then, when someone checks in there your tip (or possibly another tip) will pop up on that persons screen. It doesn’t have the typical Yelp reviewing system though like you’re used to with that program.

  12. Kimberly

    Very helpful post! I had no idea about the perks before!

    • Elena

      Thanks, Kim! Yes – the perks are awesome. Keep an eye out since I know you’re now using 4sq!

  13. Jamee @ A New Kind of Normal

    I’ve just started using foursquare so this post is super helpful! I am all about some perks & discounts!



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