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Getting to Know foursquare


August 11, 2011

Think you don't need foursquare in your life? Think again!

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It's no secret that I'm a late adapter when it comes to technology.  I flat-out refused to join Facebook until my daughter Sadie was born and I was suddenly overcome with an uncontrollable urge to post as many pictures of her as possible so that the world might share in her undeniable cuteness.  I denied the existence or necessity of the iPhone until my ancient flip phone finally died and I caved to the smartphone phenomenon (and haven't looked back).  I thought Twitter was only for teenagers and Kanye West until I finally decided to hop on and realized it could be a complete game-changer for my brand (which it's definitely proven to be).  And, until recently, I not only had no idea how foursquare worked, but couldn't imagine why I'd want the world following my every move.  It took a trip to the Whole Foods in Columbus Circle to finally convince me to take the foursquare plunge, and I'm so glad I did.  Yes, that's right - I was shopping in Whole Foods with my friends Carol and Jessica, who were giddy when they saw foursquare was offering a check-in special at that location.  That's right - you can get free stuff just for "checking in" to places on foursquare.  On this particular evening, Whole Foods was offering a free gallon of organic milk to anyone who checked in to the store on foursquare.  What?  Free milk?  This was all it took to convince me to sign up for foursquare on the spot and claim my own gallon of organic milk.  And I haven't looked back.  I'm now a veritable foursquare addict, checking in all over town, claiming as many deals as possible, and even earning the "Gym Rat" badge (of all the accolades I thought I might acquire in my life, I never thought I'd receive one even remotely connected to going to the gym!). 

So of course I was thrilled when the folks at foursquare invited me to participate in a walking tour of Tribeca designed to highlight the many ways in which foursquare can assist busy NYC parents in finding places to go and things to do with their kids.  Led by a dynamic group of foursquare employees, who offered a wealth of information along the way, the tour took us from the famous Bubby's restaurant to the charming Playing Mantis toy store to the adorable Bu & The Duck children's clothing boutique before finally landing us at South's, a laid-back neighborhood bar and grill that was reputed (according to foursquare users) to make a mean mac-n-cheese and a gut-busting nacho dish.  As we nibbled on both of these amazing appetizers (the foursquare users had not steered us wrong), we learned even more about the ways in which foursquare can make life easier and more exciting to navigate.  

Here's a little background in case you haven't yet ventured into the world of foursquare.  Foursquare is a mobile application designed to make cities easier to use and more interesting to explore.  The app is able to pinpoint your location and provide recommendations for all sorts of nearby venues, including restaurants, grocery stores, movie theaters, nail salons and more.  And, as you add friends and start to use foursquare more, the recommendations become more personalized, as they are based on your previous check-ins and those of your friends.

In addition to location information for each business, you can also view tips that other foursquare users have left regarding that particular venue (for example, favorite dishes or spa services).  And, as I discovered during my Whole Foods milk score, foursquare is also a great way to find money-saving specials and cool offers.  You can do this either by searching directly for specials (you can even narrow the area in which you're searching to a specific geographic range - for example, a half mile), or by checking in to a venue and seeing that the venue is offering a particular special.  And these are real deals.  With over a quarter million businesses on foursquare, you can find rewards such as 20% off your dinner bill, a private tour, 2-for-1 admission (The Morgan Library & Museum is offering that this summer!), a free beer (which I was able to snag for my husband at Southern Hospitality on the Upper East Side), a free dessert, and much more.  Foursquare has also recently partnered with several daily deal sites, including Living Social and Gilt Group, to allow you to view and purchase daily deals available at venues that pop up in your search results.  In case you haven't figured it out by now, foursquare is a must-have for any serious bargain hunter!

In addition to scoring some great deals, foursquare also allows you to connect with friends and family in a unique, real-time way.  By adding people as friends on foursquare, you can see where they are checking in and can even comment on their check-ins.  And who knows?  You might just discover that one of your friends is at the exact same venue you are at the exact same time, as I did on July 4th at the Children's Museum of Manhattan, when I checked in on foursquare and my friend Robin immediately replied that she was there as well, but on a different floor!  Our kids were able to engage in a fortuitous chance playdate, and Robin and I were thrilled to have some unexpected time together.  If it weren't for foursquare, we might never have bumped into each other at the museum!  I also love that foursquare allows me to see what my friends back in California are doing, and to vicariously live my former California life through their visits to In-n-Out and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.  And rest assured that, although the people I've confirmed or added as friends on foursquare can see my comings and goings as I check into various places around the city (although I can actually limit who can view it on a per-check-in basis), that information is not made public or disclosed to anyone outside my circle of foursquare friends.

In case you haven't been able to figure it out by now, I've quickly become quite enamored of foursquare, and I really can't imagine navigating New York City without it.  I'm also eager to give foursquare a try as my family travels to Washington, D.C. later this summer, and to experience foursquare's usefulness as a travel tool in an area with which we aren't even remotely familiar (especially when we're looking for gas stations and restaurants on our way to and from D.C.).  If you haven't already, I highly suggest you give foursquare a whirl and see how it can make your world more interesting to explore!