One thing that sets Foursquare aside from its rivals like Gowalla and Facebook Places is that it’s also a game, as well as a way of recording your travels and seeing where your friends are.
On Facebook, checking in at a venue only serves two uses to the user – telling your friends that you’re there, and possibly to unlock a special deal. Foursquare takes that further with its badges and mayorships. I’m going to focus on mayorships this week.
To become the mayor of a venue, you need to have check-in more frequently than any other user over a 60 day period. How easy this is will depend on the type of venue and how many other users are checking in as well. You’ll probably find it quite difficult to become a mayor of a railway station in a major city, as there’s likely to be a few commuters checking in every weekday. But a clothes shop in a small town, which people maybe only visit once in a while, may be much easier to become the mayor of. You may find that you’re able to become the mayor of a venue after just two check-ins within 60 days, if the venue isn’t visited that often by other Foursquare users.
So what advantages does being a mayor bring? On the whole, not a lot. That being said, some venues have special deals which are unlocked for the mayor – Wetherspoons pubs in the UK give the mayor of the pub a 20% discount on any food orders made there, and Blue Inc. clothing give a free t-shirt to a randomly selected mayor from its stores. In the US, at least one café has a special table set aside for the mayor.
If you amass 10 mayorships, you’ll be awarded the Super Mayor badge. There aren’t any badges for getting higher than 10, nor does there appear to be a limit on how many mayorships you can hold – a user in Italy has 686 mayorships.
In the past, mayors could also edit the venue’s details, like its name, address and location. Whilst this was useful for correcting wrong information, I imagine that Foursquare changed their minds due to abuse; if a venue that you’re mayor of has problems, see my post from two weeks ago to get a superuser to fix it.
It’s worth remembering that only your first check-in each day counts towards to a mayorship. If Foursquare says you’re 4 days away from a mayorship, that means you’ll need to check in at least once every day for four days. Checking in four times on one day will only count once.
And remember the house rules: checking in somewhere that you’re not actually visiting is considered cheating, so don’t check in if you’re just walking past. And don’t set up a cron job to check-in to somewhere every day, just to get the special deal. If you’ve checked into a Wetherspoons pub every day for the past 60 days you either have a serious alcohol problem, too much money or you’re cheating, and it looks quite obvious.
If you want to find out how long it’ll take to become mayor of a venue that you’ve checked into, have a look at When Will I Be Mayor?. You’ll need to create an account and then link it with your Foursquare account, after which it’ll list all of the venues you’ve visited over the past two months but aren’t mayor of, and how many days you’ll need to check-in to become mayor.
You may find that you’re constantly one day away from becoming mayor, and there’s a few reasons for this. Firstly, you might be trying to check-in to a popular venue and someone else is also checking in at a similar rate to you, but is a day ahead – not much you can do here other than keep trying. The other issue you may have is that, in order to be a mayor, you must have an avatar on your Foursquare account.
So, armed with this information, go forth and be mayoral!