I just received this invitation today from a real estate agent who wants to be my friend on Foursquare, which is a location-based social network. Checking in at places you frequent to share tips with your (real) friends is fun, and you can often take advantage of special offers based on what you’re up to. This guy is probably not going to see much return, and in my opinion lessens the value of the service. Unless they find a way to put a stop to this kind of spam, Foursquare may actually be in trouble.

Foursquare Spammer
Foursquare does not work this way.

How should your business use Foursquare?

For starters, don’t litter other locations with your own ad. That’s rude, and eventually can get you banned from the service. Imagine if this guy physically went to every business on this list and yelled “hey, is anyone thinking about buying real estate? Please?” – he would wear a hole in his khakis from being thrown out on his butt so often.

Make sure the information on your location is correct (you can do this by claiming the listing same as with Yelp or Google Places) and consider a special offer, which lets users know that you’re nearby, with a deal just for Foursquare visitors. The special offer is huge, and brings attention in a way that this guy is failing to do.

Friend only people in your area, or simply your customers, if you have to friend anyone at all. I am not in Ft. Lauderdale, and have no idea how this guy found me. I immediately ignored him. Well, that’s not true. I immediately made this graphic of how poorly he’s using Foursquare for his business to use him as a cautionary tale to my readers.

Offer legitimate tips, if you have tips to offer. Is there a Dunkin’ Donuts right by the practice? Do they take care of you every morning with a pile of fresh donuts and coffee? Let them know! Fourquare differs from Yelp and other local sites with reviews in that most tips are very positive. People want to share their good experiences via Fourquare more than they do on other services. This is a plus.

Not every practice should use Foursquare. Psychiatrists or other sensitive health care practices should definitely avoid too developed of a social media presence, but claiming a listing is something that everyone must do in order to control the information posted about their business.

Playing the Foursquare game fairly can be an easy way to get exposure, new walk-ins, and hear what people have to say about you. Playing it wrong can backfire like this guy, or make you look like a sham.