Saturday, January 2, 2010

How does the mayor position work in FourSquare?

Today's question comes to us from Mrs. Melissa Navarro of Ontario, California:

How does the Mayor position work?

This is in response to my various mentions of FourSquare's "mayor" designation, the most recent of which was in the post to which Navarro responded.

I was accepting a friend request in FourSquare...and I was looking over my list of places where I am still mayor. Because FourSquare has not reached critical mass, and because I am in a less traveled area, I am currently the mayor of fourteen locations....

But how do you become a FourSquare mayor? Here's what FourSquare has to say on the subject:

We all have our local hangouts and foursquare keeps tabs on who's the most loyal of all the regulars. If you've been to a place more than anyone else, you'll become "the mayor"... until someone else comes along and steals your title.

So, for example, let's say that someone goes to their favorite cupcake place. Let's choose...oh, how about if we choose My Delight Cupcakery? Now this particular venue doesn't happen to be in FourSquare yet, so I'm adding it. See

Now I'll confess that, despite a personal invitation some months ago before My Delight opened, I still haven't made it over there yet. But assume for the moment that I actually make it there in the next week or so. When I get there, all I need to do is "check in" via FourSquare, and my visit to My Delight is now registered in the system.

However, a single visit is not enough to make you the mayor of a new location, For new locations, generally you need to visit the place on two different days before you can become the mayor of the location.

And if you stop visiting there, and someone else visits, then it's quite possible that you can lose your mayorship to someone else. That's exactly what happened to me at the Starbucks at Valencia & Imperial in Brea, California. I used to be the mayor there, but as I write this the current mayor is Lauren D.

Now FourSquare's hope is that the game impulse will kick in, and that I'll say to myself, "Hey, I can't let Lauren remain the mayor of that Starbucks! So I'm just going to make a point of visiting that Starbucks in Brea a few times so that I can win the mayorship back!"

Now this benefits FourSquare, and benefits the business as well. But some businesses take it a step further. Again, let's see what FourSquare has to say about this:

foursquare aims to encourage people to explore their neighborhoods and then reward people for doing so. We do this by combining our friend-finder and social city guide elements with game mechanics - our users earn points, win mayorships and unlock badges for trying new places and revisiting old favorites.

In the past few months we've seen local businesses encouraging users to show their phones to servers and cashiers as a way to prove their loyalty to a particular place.

"Foursquare says you've been here 10x? That's a free drink for you!"

"Foursquare has deemed you the mayor (aka you've been here more than any other user)? Enjoy this free order of french fries."

We've seen venues promote their involvement with foursquare via Twitter, signs at cash registers and sidewalk blackboards. We're just starting to make these specials "official" by including them in our mobile apps and on our website.

So how do you find out about these specials? I don't have the proper software to do this while traveling, but Jake Kuramoto does, and he encountered a special during Oracle OpenWorld. While wandering around in the SOMA area, Jake was notified that a nearby yogurt shop (Froots, Westfield Mall, 845 Market) was offering a free small frozen yogurt on a user's first checkin, and on every 5th checkin.

Now for people like me who don't have a GPS-enabled phone, I could simply look up the venue to see if they have any specials. Here's the venue page for Froots Westfield Mall, with (as of today) their offer for FourSquare users. The current offer is for $1 off a small frozen yogurt, not for a free frozen yogurt.

Now if I were advising My Delight Cupcakery, would I encourage them to use FourSquare for special offers? In my case, not at this time. The fact that I am one of only three people who checks in to a nearby business via FourSquare indicates that there just aren't that many FourSquare users in the Inland Empire yet.

Then again, I now have a sudden hankering to visit the Fatburger in Orange, so maybe an offer for FourSquare users WOULD be beneficial. (Well, provided that the "special menu code" is something significant.)

But the people at My Delight have some online savvy - in addition to their web page, they have Twitter and Facebook pages. So a FourSquare page - in this case, - is certainly a good addition to their arsenal.

(Picture source, license)

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