Matt Hurst's checkins on Foursquare, displayed in an infographic

Foursquare by the Numbers: Measuring my social life by location

Heatmap of MattHurst's checkins on Foursquare Since Foursquare was created in March 2009 its social network which connects people and places into an addictive public game has motivated millions to continue checking-in. Whether your friends use the social network to unlock badges for brands and special events, compete on the leaderboard, and of course become “the mayor” of their favorite venues. Location-based social networks like Foursquare have created new opportunities for friends to connect IRL (or allegedly to stalk each other), while opening individuals to new connections more like they do online.

Of course Foursquare was hardly the first location-based social media; by the time I signed-up in March 2009 I had already been checking-in for nearly a year, using networks like Brightkite and Loopt. Indeed the founders of Foursquare were well ahead of the competition, having set up the SMS-based location network Dodgeball years earlier which had been bought by Google, only to revisit their idea with smartphone technology. By mixing game elements and unlockable rewards, not to mention the right timing to take advantage of the burgeoning social media scene, Foursquare has created a unique application that has proved popular by 2010 and beyond.

In the process of the gameplay and deals that attract users and brands to use the service, one of the byproduct of using Foursquare is the data that’s created about individuals who use the service. Here’s some perspective on how I’ve used Foursquare over the past 2 years:

Thumbnail of Foursquare infographic - click to enlarge
click image to enlarge the Foursquare Infographic
  • I was the 3,820th user to register on Foursquare, making me an early adopter of the location-based network that now tops 8 million members.
  • My first check-in was on March 17, 2009 at Breadsoda in Washington D.C., and have checked-in another 669 days since
  • In my first two years I’ve checked-in over 3000 times (3241 as of April 15, 2011) at 723 different venues.
  • I’m currently mayor of 7 venues, and have earned as many as 13 mayorship at any one time, earning me the Supermayor badge
  • So far I’ve unlocked 61 badges so far: 38 official Foursquare badges, and 23 more branded by their promoted partners

Of course Foursquare is much more than a means to broadcast your location, although the network has that reputation since many early adopters (myself included) had their service configured to tweet their check-ins automatically. However I’ve found Foursquare is best experienced not just as social media, but as a tool to connect people with places. Their service aids the discovery of new places to visit by using the suggestions and tips of friends, and on several occasions has helped result in the social media serendipity that has connected me with new friends and enabled impromptu rendezvous with friends who check-in right around the corner.

Mapping my friend's location on Foursquare in NYC

It’s this decidedly pro-social behavior that Foursquare promotes by offering the tools to help keep tabs on what your friends are up to, and is reinforced consistently with it’s game elements that reward the behaviors it can measure; business owners can create deals to lure in customers, and the game itself keeps consumers motivated to keep using the service. Sometimes I even find myself going out of my way unlock special promotions at venues or to visit places I want become “the mayor” of. Along the way, here’s some of the measurements of how Foursquare keeps me connected:

  • I follow at least 195 friends on Foursquare (and a few dozen branded accounts), in dozens of cities around the world.
  • Among my friends, I was the 11th person who signed-up for Foursquare
  • I’ve contributed over 100 tips at the venues I frequent, the most popular of which at DCA airport, and completed 209 tips left by others
  • I was invited to become a Superuser on Foursquare so I can edit and improve venues, helping build the foursquare community

Probably the best way to learn about Foursquare is to try the network for yourself. Once you’re already a member of Foursquare, feel free to follow me for tips and impromptu meetups. Or if you prefer using another location-based social media, check out all the networks I use to share my location.

Matt Hurst's checkins on Foursquare, displayed in an infographic