Foursquare: Unlock 'Secret' Badges and Reduce Privacy Risks

Some Foursquare badges are easy to obtain and require very little strategy on the part of the user

Take the Lucky magazine "Elite Shopper" badge, for instance. From a Foursquare badge list, you can see the text that accompanies the badge reads "Wow! You're on a spree! You've hit 5 of our favorite boutiques and still going strong." So it stands to reason that you must check-in to five Lucky magazine recommended locations to obtain the badge. But how do you find those Lucky mag approved establishments?

Simple. You can visit the Lucky magazine page on Foursquare for a list of all available recommended locations. And from there, you can click on any of those locations, to see that Lucky Magazine has left a "tip" on every one of the recommended pages--or the venue has been tagged "luckymag." That means you can search for venues near you on the Lucky mag page itself. Or use the Foursquare search function to look for that specific "luckymag" tag.

Find five listed locations in your area via the Lucky mag page or search for "luckymag"-tagged venues, save the addresses and then hit the road to find them, and you'll have the "secret" Elite Shopper badge just as fast as you can make your way from shop to shop.

Another badge that takes some tagging work to unlock is the "Zoetrope" badge. The text that accompanies this particular badge reads: "That brings you to 10 movie theater checkins! Now, can you pick us up a large popcorn while you're up?" So the badge is awarded to users who check-in 10 times at movie theatres.

However, checking into any old movie theatre on Foursquare won't necessarily count as progress toward the Zoetrope badge; all the theatres you check-in to must also be tagged "movie theater," or they won't count.

Twitter, Facebook and other social networks are also great places to find information on hard to find badges. Just ask your followers. You may be surprised at how many people are willing to help. (Hint: Follow @nanpalmero, the Foursquare King of San Antonio, on Twitter for quality assistance.)

3) Using Foursquare "Tags"

As you can see from the last section, tagging venues on Foursquare is important and you should frequently take the time to do so on your own. Unfortunately, you can't remotely add tags to venues at this point--at least using any of the mobile applications I've employed. So you'll need a PC with Web access to start tagging.

You may, for example, want to search for all the local pizza places near you to ensure they're all tagged "pizza" before you start visiting them on your way toward that Pizzaiolo badge, mentioned above. And you can also add new venues that may not show up in your search via the Foursquare desktop interface, and tag them appropriately so you get proper credit when checking-in in person.

To do so, simply log-in to your Foursquare account and start searching for your desired tags in the search-box at the top-right of the page. If you search "pizza," you'll be presented with lists of results in four categories: Venues, with the word "pizza" in their names; People, with the word "pizza" in their names; Tips from users that mention "pizza;" and "pizza" Tags.

If you're simply searching for places that'll get your closer to that Pizzaiolo badge, you want to click the "Tags" option, to view all locations tagged "pizza."

And it's a good idea to start tagging any new venues you may add or that haven't been tagged by others, to give users a better idea of what they might find and to help unlock badges. For instance, I visit Foursquare.com via PC about once a day to revisit my recent history and add tags to places that may need them.

To add a tag to a Foursquare venue, just visit that specific venue's Foursquare page, scroll to the bottom and fill in appropriate tags on the right. (Note: Some tags are "reserved" by Foursquare and participating brands so, for example, you can't add "luckymag" or "historychannel" tags to any venue you please.)

And you can find specific types of venues or venues with specific tags, in areas other than your own, by simply changing your location information. To change your location, login to Foursquare.com via PC, click your location in the top-right corner of the page and type in a new location.

4) Foursquare and Privacy

One of the most common concerns about Foursquare relates to user privacy. Surely, if you're checking in everywhere you go, every day, you're opening yourself up to some fairly significant privacy risks. More specifically, you're handing over your location information to potential stalkers and other baddies.

So the key to reducing the privacy-risks associated with using Foursquare is to set a privacy-strategy. In other words, properly manage who has access to your location information. And don't check-in everywhere you go.

Foursquare works like any other social network, in that you add "friends" or accept connection requests to build out your following. But since Foursquare employs potentially sensitive location-information, you should be particularly careful who you connect with on the service. General rule of thumb: Don't connect with anyone on Foursquare who you don't "know." You don't have to be best friends with all your Foursquare contacts. In fact, you don't have to have ever even met them. But if you can't put a potential contact's name to a face--or at least a name to an online-personality--you should probably think twice about connecting with them.

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Al Sacco

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