Trendspotting: Review Everything, Reward Tastemakers

When I'm trying to figure out where to grab dinner or what to order at a new restaurant, nothing is more powerful than a personal recommendation from a friend -- for now, at least. Two tech trends are making it easier to get the power of the personal recommendation out of strangers, too:

  • Trend One: Encourage reviews of anything and everything, even the chairs.
  • Trend Two: Identify and reward tastemakers and influencers.

In this series, I'm examining three apps leading the way in these trends.

Part 1: Nosh | Part 2: Oink | Part 3: Foursquare Badges (You're Reading It)

Foursquare Wants you to Check Out Businesses Before You "Check In"

Mars Cafe's foursquare Page on

Foursquare (styled foursquare, with a lower-case "f") is a social network of over 15 million users. Most people are familiar with foursquare as a way to "check in" to physical places in the real world, meaning: you use a mobile app to pull up a list of nearby locations, choose one, and announce "I'm here!" to your friends on foursquare and other connected social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

One of the more popular features on foursquare is the ability to become "Mayor" of a location you check in to frequently. At a minimum, being Mayor earns you digital bragging rights, but many businesses use the Mayor status to reward loyal customers with special discounts or even their own mug, seat, or parking space. Foursquare users can also collect badges for certain behavior like checking in with a large group of people (Swarm badge) or checking in to three different locations that have photobooths (Photogenic badge).

With a commanding presence in the location-based check-in category already established, foursquare has turned their attention toward getting users to rely on foursquare not just for discovering things nearby, but for deciding where to go in the first place. Foursquare lists, an overhauled website, and badges that "level up" are new features that land foursquare in this trendspotting series.

Trend One: Lists, Tips and To-Dos Trump Reviews

Sidebar of the Gateway Market and Cafe Page on

Foursquare doesn't have any one particular feature you would consider a "review", but that doesn't stop users from sharing their opinion about their favorite (and not-so-favorite) businesses. For example, by visiting the page for Gateway Market & Cafe, a local specialty grocer and restaurant, I can find the following:

  • 24 photos -- including snaps of cafe items, groceries, patrons, and a display of pumpkins
  • how many people have checked in (over 1,200)
  • foursquare lists the business appears in (including "Top 100 Restaurants" by a local entertainment guide and "Vegan Friendly" by our designer, Amanda)
  • dozens of tips left by customers, like this one: "Stopping by for lunch? A half salad will be more than enough to fill you up. The Cilantro Lime Chicken Salad is the best on the menu."
Foursquare's users have given me a very complete picture of Gateway Market without relying on a traditional rating and review system. Users can curate lists of anything they can think of, like their favorite lunch spots, the best coffee in town, or locally-owned businesses.

Trend Two: Coffee Expert? Prove It

Screenshot of Neil's Foursquare Badges

Badges are a big part of the foursquare culture, and they just got a major upgrade in the form of, well, upgrading! Users that check into a handful of different coffee shops will earn the "Fresh Brew" badge. As that user checks in to more and more coffee shops, their badge will upgrade to a higher level. Conceivably, a tip encouraging you to try the Americano would have more sway coming from a fully-upgraded Fresh Brew badge holder.

My Recommendation

Unlike the previous entries in this series (Nosh and Oink), foursquare is a well-established network of people sharing information about local businesses. Whether you run a bowling alley, bistro, or bodega, at a bare minimum you should visit this page and follow foursquare's instructions for claiming your location. Make sure all the information about your establishment is correct, and take some time to look over the check-ins and tips already connected to your business. Foursquare's recent updates make it easier than ever to suss out what influential customers are saying about your business and what people's favorite things are about your establishment. If you don't find yourself having as much time as you'd like to survey or interview your customers, the information flowing through foursquare is a great way to check your pulse.

Advanced tip: A big frustration for foursquare addicts is when an employee of a business is the Mayor. This is not encouraged, and prevents loyal customers from vying for the title. Foursquare allows you to identify users as employees so they can still check in, but won't be eligible for the Mayorship. You can find where to do this on the right-hand side of the "Manager Tools" page once you've claimed your venue.

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AuthorScott Kubie
CategoriesTip Jar