Some social media apps reward their users for checking in from smartphones as they go from place to place in the bricks-and-mortar world. This mobile check-in activity is popular with those who connect online. You can encourage people to check in at your place of business.

The current leader in the market is Foursquare, a social geolocation-based application that allows users to check in when they arrive at almost any location. Currently, more than 20 million people use Foursquare, so if you have a retail location, odds are some of your customers are checking in.

You can check in to Foursquare on a plane (with a flight number), at a restaurant, at a bank, in the doctor’s office . . . pretty much from everywhere. Get the word out to your customers!

When users arrive at a location and check in, their friends may be notified of their location (based on the individual user’s privacy settings). Repeat visits earn users badges of honor (in the figure, see a customer's badge for visiting three bakeries) and place them higher in an internal ranking system.


Foursquare allows the user to become the Mayor of a business or spot she frequents by being the person who checks in at a single location most often. This high status is coveted by participants. When someone gets ousted, a scramble sometimes ensues to be reinstated by making another visit.

All this activity occurs using a game mechanism: Users earn points, get discounts, win Mayorships, and unlock badges for trying new places and revisiting old favorites.