Checking-In to the State of Foursquare

Foursquare’s rapid rise from New York startup to media darling is quite remarkable. If you judge the service by its badge, or shall we say badges, you might miss the bigger picture. The essence of Foursquare is powered by its community.


Last year at SXSW, Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley joined Frank Eliason (previously @comcastcares), Altimeter Group’s Jeremiah Owyang and me on stage to discuss the shifting landscape of social engagement. While I focused on the sociology of engagement and the impact it is having on culture and society, I also sought to balance the conversation by demonstrating the impact of digital actions and interaction between people and businesses.

Whether intentional or not, Crowley and team unlocked the elusive gates that separated the last mile of engagement between local businesses and their customers and prospective patrons. The rising generation of social consumers embraced geo-location services to share physical experiences, connect with their social graph in the real world and also earn rewards for their check-ins, which is rapidly becoming a powerful form of peer-to-peer endorsements and recommendations. Crowley, quite literally gamed the system that was once solely controlled by giants such as the Yellow Pages, Google and Yelp. The Foursquare team bridged the gap between people and places both online and offline.

Later in the year, we caught up again for a cover story I wrote for Entrepreneur magazine.


We discussed how Foursquare redefined the role of the patron and the relationship between businesses and customers.

“The network started to take on a life of its own,” Crowley said in the interview for Entrepreneur. “Foursquare gave everyday people, venues and local merchants a voice. It opened the doors for businesses to see a whole new way of seeing their customer.”

In the Game of Foursquare, What’s the Score?

Foursquare’s rapid rise from New York startup to media darling is quite remarkable. If you judge the service by its badge, or shall we say badges, you might miss the bigger picture. The essence of Foursquare is powered by its community. In this mobile Utopia, people earn positions of prominence by exploring and improving the experiences of other explorers. It’s a form of social hierarchy that’s alluring and rewarding. For a more recent example, it’s not unlike the fledgling blog darling Quora. The ties that bind its users are woven through social ties and recognition that’s earned through participation and contribution.


Foursquare continues to evolve and the team recently released an infographic that visualized collective achievements and user behavior. To make it easier to consume and also appreciate its progress, let’s review some key milestones.

In 2010, Foursquare experienced 3,400-percent growth over 2009, reaching 6,000,000 users to date.


This year, Foursquare received over 380 million check-ins.


The largest swarm to date is the Rally to Restore Sanity, which saw over 35,000 check-ins on October 30th, 2010.

A Day in the Life


The team also revealed a “day in the life” of the typical Foursquare user.

Most people check-in to eateries, gaining momentum at 8 a.m. every day and thinning out just after midnight.

Check-ins to work or the office also follow a similar pattern. Work days typically seem to see the greatest volume of check-ins between 7 – 8 a.m. continuing to midnight.


Retail therapy is in session all day, racking up check-ins around 10 a.m. and winding down shortly before 10 p.m.

A few hotels have done well in the luring of check-ins.


The top hotels, in order, include:

1. Ace Hotel, New York
2. Wynn Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas
3. The St. Regis, San Francisco


Foursquare users are an eclectic bunch.

The top 3 art galleries visited in 2010 are:

1. MOMA — Museum of Modern Art, New York
2. Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Washington DC
3. Gallery of Modern Art, South Brisbane, Australia


Where did people check-in to hear live music in 2010?

The Top 3 music venues:

1. Terminal 5, New York
2. Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles
3. Mercury Lounge, New York


With all of this checking-in, users work up an appetite and a need to quench their thirst.

The top 3 establishments for food and drink are:

1. Union Square Greenmarket, New York
2. Whole Foods, Austin, TX
3. Pike Place, Seattle


In 2010, brands also realized the opportunity to link terrestrial experiences with real world activity.

The top brands in 2010 included:

MTV — 118,370 followers
Bravo — 114,202
History Channel — 101,352
ZAGAT — 97,883
VH1 — 76,494

As Foursquare continues to attract users and check-ins around the world, consumers gain an upper hand in balance of power between patronage and magnetism. It’s a balance that venues will need to examine in order to expand their reach beyond traditional customers and even online customers. The future of relevance lies in romancing and rewarding the social consumer.

UPDATE: Per a special request by Dennis, I’ve included one last stat…

Wendy’s, the popular fast food chain, received 224 check-ins in 2010 by individuals with the name Wendy. And, one persevering Wendy’s patron in Madison, MS earned the mayorship, to become the only Wendy who is a mayor of Wendy’s.

Reprinted from

Brian Solis is the author of Engage and is one of most provocative thought leaders and published authors in new media. A digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist, Solis’s research and ideas have influenced the effects of emerging media on the convergence of marketing, communications, and publishing. Follow him on Twitter @BrianSolis, YouTube, or at


About the author

Brian Solis is global innovation evangelist at Salesforce. He’s also a digital anthropologist, best-selling author, and keynote speaker


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