I’ve been writing a series of blogs about my recent road trip in the USA and the applications that helped and didn’t help me along the way. The last couple of blogs were about TripAdvisor which was a big help when it came to accommodation, but not great for much else.
I’ve been a big fan of Foursquare for a long time. You’ll find it mentioned in many of my blogs. One of the common threads is that people all over the world are ‘checking-in’ using the GPS on their mobile phones to all sorts of businesses, leaving tips and comments. There are recommendations of favourite food, or great service through to comments about lack of hygiene in the bathrooms.
The really frustrating thing is that the vast majority of businesses that get a mention on Foursquare have no idea what it is, or that they are involved. Foursquare is of course well-known by people in marketing roles, especially those involved in social media. Most of my friends in the information and communication technology industries use it. I’ve written a number of blogs trying to promote it to businesses in the hospitality and tourism industries because it is free and because tourists and travelers are using it. I suspect it mostly falls on deaf ears.
Many of the hotels I stayed at on my trip were on the outskirts of towns and somehow we managed to pretty much always arrive around 5-6PM tired and hungry. Where to find somewhere good to eat? Initially we went for walks or drives, but we really just wanted to relax. I quickly found that Foursquare was the best way to not only find out what was nearby, but also to find what places people recommend, or don’t.
You can search from a range of items based on proximity including Specials, Food, Coffee, Sights, Arts, Trending and more. You don’t just have the option of searching in proximity to where you are, but effectively you can pan the map for the bigger picture, or search by place-name for your next destination.
Using this we found some great restaurants and bars and also managed to confirm the location of an alligator hatchery in Louisiana that the navigation unit placed about a mile wrong in the middle of nowhere, which was pretty disconcerting when we were driving on the wrong side of the road (for us) of some very narrow country roads.
I do have to say that I only found a few specials using Foursquare, which reinforced my experience that hundreds of thousands of businesses are missing out on opportunities to pro-actively win more business.
I also kicked myself after spending 45 minutes waiting for a quesadilla at The Iron Kettle restaurant in Lynchburg, because if I had used Foursquare I would have read a comment left by a previous visitor saying: “Avoid. Slow service. You could walk to New York and get a three course meal in the time it takes for a simple burger here.” They were right too. To her credit, the waitress refused to charge us for our lunch, much to the disgust of the manageress.
That brings me to another very cool feature of Foursquare and that is the ‘History’ function. If you log on to your Foursquare account and select history, you will find a chronological record of every location you checked into including the time, date and any photos or comments you made at the time. I had originally planned to start a travel diary using My Vacation on my iPad. I have to say that lasted about 3 days. We were just so busy doing and planning that we just didn’t feel like keeping a diary. Turns out we didn’t need to. That alone is a great reason to use Foursquare next time you are going on a trip. Check in, take photos, make comments and you have your travel diary.
Pay it forward and leave tips, good and bad about the locations you check in to so that others can benefit from your experience and learn from mine as well, that even if it is right there in front of you and looks OK, check for tips and comments other people have left. As I’ve said in previous blogs about TripAdvisor, if one person leaves a bad comment, take it with a big grain of salt, but when there are several, where there’s smoke, there could well be fire.
I love Foursquare and feel it is perhaps seen by many, such as those who still mock twitter, saying “I don’t care if you had a coffee!” as a waste of time. I say that it is a wonderful marketing tool, a great site and app for exploring new places that you may not otherwise have found and definitely ranks as my favourite global Points of Interest database.
Give it a go, whether you are travelling on holiday or just looking to try a new place to eat, have a coffee or be entertained. If you find it useful, share your own tips and comments, pay it forward.
I also welcome comments on my blog. What do you like or not like about Foursquare. What have I missed? There is of course much more including game mechanics, leaving comments on other people’s check-ins, mayorships, badges, friends and lists and the ability to add new locations on the fly and share them with the rest of the world. There are also many 3rd party apps usng the Foursquare API’s. What are your favourite features?