It's been said that 2010 will be the Year of FourSquare (via Peter Shankman) but it's also been called annoying and worthless by folks who'd rather not see FourSquare updates on Twitter and Facebook. Like any technology or social application, there are ways to use FourSquare without annoying anyone – or, with minimal annoyance at least.
- Turn off notifications to Twitter and Facebook
This seems counter-productive, but users that login and search nearby areas will see you. FourSquare doesn't break when you don't send updates to Facebook or Twitter. If you don't want to go all the way, at least turn off the notifications of unlocked badges and achievements.
- Think about where you're checking in
There is no reason why you should check in at your house. Remember, locations you create, like your home, are publicly searchable. While paranoia shouldn't be the rule of the day, there are few compelling reasons to put the location of your home out there for all to so easily find. Checking in at church, at a bar, at a movie theater? That's one thing. Checking in at your doctor's office, your (for the ladies) gynecologist, or your kid's preschool? That's altogether different.
- Updating every 20 minutes isn't necessary
There's no need to check-in at every store you visit while you're out running errands. “At Walmart” followed by “At Ace Hardware” 15 minutes later followed by “At Staples” 20 minutes after that gets old pretty quick. If you wouldn't take the time to type “I'm at Walmart” in your Twitter client, don't bother checking in with FourSquare. Like anything else that goes out to the social web, ask yourself if it's worth putting out there.
- Participate with people that want to participate
Seek out businesses that want to use FourSquare as part of a marketing strategy. They will often offer discounts to customers that check-in at their location. Bars have been quick to jump on this. Don't go overboard! The previous three suggestions still apply.
- Don't be rude in real life, either
Whatever you do, don't hold up the line at the grocery store trying to check-in while you're standing at the cashier. Don't belly up to the bar, get the bartender's attention, then make him wait as you check-in. True, there are people online who are annoyed by FourSquare updates; there's no reason to annoy people in real life, too.
- Show you can have fun with it without taking it too seriously
Check in from someplace like Missy Ward's Ample Cleavage (wish I'd known about that little bit of comedy while we were all in Vegas). If you're making people laugh, you're probably not annoying them.
Like anything (especially abusing services like twitterfeed), FourSquare can be used in ways that others don't like. While I do believe that there aren't any hard-and-fast rules when it comes to social applications, I do believe in strong guidelines. Are you on FourSquare? How do you use it?