I never knew there was much purpose in “checking-in” to places other than simply letting your friends know where you were. I did notice a lot of my Facebook friends using Foursquare, the free location-based social (LBS) networking website for smartphones to check in to all sorts of places from restaurants, museums, to live events, hotels and airports. Before logging on I incorrectly assumed this platform was vanity driven with posts such as “I’m having a great time,” or “I’m heading to the beach.” My paranoid side also chimed in and with thoughts of an open invitation to burglary. Admittedly, I used the Facebook check-in feature on route to the hospital while having my second child. I thought it would be cool to let everyone know that the baby was on its way and at the same time tossed in a Sunnybrook Hospital mention. This whole time I thought checking in via Facebook and Foursquare were one in the same. Well, they’re not. You’re not only lending a hand to earned media, like you are with Facebook. With Foursquare, the users actually get something in return. Businesses offer customers “specials” simply for being loyal and referring new customers. Customers can unlock badges, earn points and get elected “mayor” of places on Foursquare. They receive VIP treatment and exclusive deals based on the most check-ins in the past 60 days. I may have lost some SunnyBrook points for not using Foursquare and I surely could have been“mayor” at my neighborhood coffee shop for the amount of times I’ve ventured there.

The upside from a PR perspective is huge potential. There wouldn’t be 1,000,000 establishments on Foursquare if it wasn’t.

  • Starwood Hotels gave preferred guests 250 Starwood points simply by using Foursquare to check in, and they were automatically entered into a contest for a resort getaway.


  • SXSW(South by SouthWest) teamed up with Pepsi Max and got users to follow hip-hop star Big Boi on Foursquare throughout Austin, Texas. The incentive was to unlock the “Golden Ticket badge” which earned users a spot at an exclusive Big Boi concert during SXSW.


Most people associate Foursquare specials with retail and restaurants. What to do when there is no physical location, like my online shop? This is where creativity is key. We can all learn from what the History Channel did. When users check in to sites like the Tower of London or Mark Twain’s house, a tip from The History Channel pops up, explaining historically significant facts. Similarly, Warner Bros and HBO launched campaigns using Foursquare.


This last example proves that businesses of any type can reap the rewards from this platform especially since users are pushing Foursquare check-ins through Twitter and Facebook. If anything you’re getting word-of-mouth hype.

Quick Response (QR) Codes, two-dimensional bar code codes, I`m more familiar with. I notice them everywhere and they can make our every day experiences much more interactive and interesting. Install an app on your smartphone with a QR-code scanner that converts it to a URL directing the smartphone’s browser to websites, videos, contact information etc. I thought it would be original to put a QR code on a business card but after seeing what these black and occasional colorful modules arranged in a square can do, there are a lot more uses that I ever imagined.

Why not tattoo a QR code on yourself with a link to your contact information? How about putting one on your dog’s collar so if you lose your dog they’ll know where to find you? How about baking it on cupcakes with a link to a charitable cause like Montreal`s Twestival did?

Clever Cupcakes

Some are a bit on the extreme side but the possibilities are endless. Just please don’t place QR codes on moving buses, trains, or vehicles, I mean Really, Really?


For a PR practitioner, creating the code is done easily and it`s free so why not add them to press releases.  When they`re photographed it will link directly to a webpage, info graphics images and videos? The plus is that it`s in a social media ready format for journalists and bloggers to tap into.

Instead of wearing a name tag to that conference or trade show, wear a QR code. With a simple scan, people you meet will instantly have your contact information in their smartphones.

Even after hours, retailers are offering window shopping, literally.  Shoppers can scan the QR code on the storefront and then shop online using their smartphones.

I don`t have a retail shop but I do have a QR Code.

Scan me!

QR Code






The greatest benefit with these two platforms is you can get the best of them simultaneously. Use your QR codes in your place of business and automatically link it to your Foursquare.

9 Comments on Rediscovering My Inner Geek

  1. Hi Joy, Thanks for this post! Not only did I appreciate your insights and ideas, thanks too for the “earned media” link. AND, very cool QR code! I tested it. VERY impressed with the code (including colour) and your website. Do you have a way to measure the activity that gets pushed to your site via the code? ~ Janette

  2. Good question, Janette: can you track the number of visits to your site from the QR code, Joy? It would be the only way to measure their success, wouldn’t it?

  3. Great write up, even though I disagree with how functional QRs and Foursquare are. For Foursquare, the ROI from the user wasn’t enough for me. Coupons didn’t off-set that people have the potential to know where I am. QRs have a major competitor that they can’t win against – google. I’m more likely to remember key words and google them than I am to go up to a poster and scan it.

  4. OK, you made me look! Much as I’m not a fan of QR codes, I scanned yours and visited your website – great work – I would have ‘amplified’ your message, by ‘liking’ on Facebook, but alas, I experienced technical difficulties (something about cookies – and now I’m hungry…). Congrats on the new baby, and very cool being able to announce via FB! Good to know that Google analytics provides data on traffic generated via QR codes.

    • I like that idea too. What about QR code tattoos. I came across one where the guy’s tattoo took me to his band’s youtube video. I LOVE it! Not sure what you do if the band breaks up – – but, love it from a pr/marketing perspective.

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