Using Foursquare Without Annoying Your Audience

We're all guilty of it at times: posting a flurry of retweets, oversharing check-ins in to routine places, slamming your friends' Facebook news feeds with links and photos that only you find interesting - the list goes on and on. If it's one thing that those in content creation can agree on, for your message to be received well and your following to grow, it must have some value to your audience.

Let's assume for a minute that you already know who your audience is. How do you make the message you're sending valuable to them? You can take a cue from real estate agents who suggest staging homes to their selling clients. Making a home more desirable by giving people a suggestive information as to what they could do with the spaces inside is a very powerful motivator. People can either see themselves as a perfect fit or help them decide a home isn't right for them. It's polarizing and it sparks a reaction.

The same is true when you use Foursquare. Simply checking in somewhere isn't exciting to most people. What gets people interested in you - and likewise, what gets your followed - is the value you add to the raw information of posting your location. Say you check into a restaurant and it's a place you love to go because of a special craft beer they have on tap. Share it! Let people know the why behind the check-in and you're building value. Likewise, double the value of the why with a photo of that beer. My favorite thing to do is to pose an object of my attraction to a particular venue and attach it to the check in. I might take a photo of that craft beer in Instagram, apply a cool filter to it, and attach it to my post, sharing it on Twitter and Facebook. Doing this builds interest around where you go and what you do and it let's people know the things you like. That's the real value in a network like Foursquare.

Maintaining Your Privacy

Another thing to remember is to avoid sharing venues of places that have a personal significance to you with your public followers. There have been stories in the past of people's homes being broken into because someone deduced they weren't home based on the fact they check-in everywhere and overshare that information. This happens to people who aren't careful about the information they're unknowingly (or knowingly) share with the general public. If you want to check in while you're filling up your tank on the way to work, that's fine - keep it on Foursquare. There's no need to push that information to Twitter or Facebook unless you make it meaningful (check-ins with no information = bad, adding a comment that unleaded is $2.99/gal = awesome).

As a side note, the same goes for sharing check-in information when you're home. There's not much value you can add to a check-in from your home, so I'm a fan of not making your home a venue to begin with, unless you want everyone to know exactly where you live and when you're not home.

It's important to remember that when you share information publicly, you're giving up your privacy in exchange for a social relationship with someone. Being smart about what and how you post location-based information is the key to maintaining your privacy with those relationships.

I never check in when I'm at home, because I don't want people to know where I live. While I may tend to be an oversharing attention whore at times, I also know there are times where that's just not appropriate. And my family's privacy is more important than people knowing where I am every minute of the day. ~ Erik Deckers, ProBlogService.com

Adding Value

What I'm talking about here are the routine check-ins to the local convenience store, grocery store, gas station, Walmart, etc. Nobody really cares where you buy your groceries, unless your audience has a personal attachment to the venue. For example, a majority of your friends shop at the same grocery store as you might not care that you're starting your weekly grocery shop. However, it might be more poignant for them if you're friends are health conscious and there's an awesome sale on organic strawberries happening. Tell people why you're there and what they should care (a.k.a. adding value). You can use these tips to help curb your check-in sprees:

99.9% of people misuse [the crossposting] feature. No one ever adds content. If there is the option to add content, do. If there is the option to add a photo, do. I don't care about what I gain from using it, but what the guy behind me sees. The tips and the photos... It's not for me. It's for you. ~ Ricky Potts, rickyleepotts.com

Slow Down

I can tell you from experience that checking into many places in a small period of time can have two major negative impacts. First, it will get you unfollowed quicker than anything. What is the point of checking into 30 venues in an hour? If you're checking in that much, I can guarantee you're not adding any value to the information you're sharing (called broadcasting noise) and the trail you leave behind is pretty much only useful to your friendly neighborhood stalker.

Secondly, you'll get burnt out on using the Foursquare and you'll never want to come back to it. In an effort to be at the top of my friends' list in points on Foursquare, I once checked into every single venue I so much as looked in the general direction of for one week. By the end of that week, sure I was #1 in points on the leaderboard, but I was so absolutely burnt out from all the oversharing that I stopped using the service the following week and even resorted to deleting the app from my phone for almost a year (and came dangerously close to deleting my user profile!).

Don’t check in every day. Don’t check in every week, even. And if you do check in more frequently, don’t push most of your check-ins to Twitter and Facebook. Simple enough. ~ Robby Slaughter, Slaughter Development

My point with this post is that slowing down and putting a few seconds of thought into the information you broadcast out to the world can really get you noticed. You can be known as the person who generates quality information and shares it with others, or you can be known as the person who generates noise and should be avoided at all costs. You can be the most interesting person in the world, but unless you're making your content appealing to others, you're wasting your time and efforts.

Foursquare dosequisman