With any new social media tool comes new social media user gaffes.
Though each functions a little differently, the idea is much the same, a high-techy personalized version of "Carmen Sandiego." When you arrive at a location, you use the mobile phone applications to "check in," letting the world know: "Hey, look where I am!'' Some marketers are using these oversharing games to their advantage and offering discounts to frequent visitors. (Starbucks does this, and I included a screen grab of their reward here as an example.)
You can also friend your favorite users to see where they are. And you can post your check-in announcements on Facebook and Twitter.
So why do this? Well, you can collect points and awards with the more you do, and compare them with other users. For example, you'll get a School Night award badge on Foursquare if you checked into a place after 3 a.m. on a school night. Or you can get a Lucha Libre pin on Gowalla after checking in at 10 Mexican food spots. (For now, at least, the points won't get you anything more than recognition.)
That said, if you want to get into the game, I recommended you play nice and follow these five basic guidelines to avoid looking like a twit:
1. We know you go to work every day, and you're awesome for doing so. But please spare the world and avoid publishing these mundane check-ins announcements to your Facebook and Twitter feeds. You can get the Foursquare or Gowalla points even if you don't share it with Facebook and Twitter. It adds pointless noise to your profile feeds.
2. You can also spare the world from announcing on Facebook and Twitter every time you visit some fast food drive-through or grocery mart. Unless there's something special going on at the time, you look pretty lame bragging to the world that you're picking up some milk or getting a Crunchwrap Supreme.
3. It's a bad idea to create a check-in location for your home or your friend's home. Sure, it's a cheap way to get more points. But it lets everyone in the neighborhood see what user lives there. (And when that user isn't home.) If you regret making a check-in for your home, contact the support team to remove it for you.
4. When you're one of the first users in an area, sometimes you have to create the profile of the place. Please, for the sake of being a good community player, take the time to spell the place correctly and use proper punctuation. I've seen way too many instances where names are spelled wrong, so people create doubles and clutter the space.
5. Speaking of clutter, don't create check-in locations for every room of your building. A church near my home even has a check-in for every men's and women's bathroom. Aside from the gross oversharing, it crowds out other places that are near me. If my app doesn't show the CVS near me because you would rather let the world know you are mayor of the bathroom, I think it's time to put down the phone.