The Five F’s of Checking-In

I recently read a blog post that I thought was really interesting regarding Location Based Services (Check-ins, Location Based Marketing and the F’ Word by Claudio Schapsis).  According to the writer, there are five reasons people use location based services: Fun, Friends, Fancying, Freebies and Following.  All five F’s were framed underneath a larger, more vague ‘F:’ Find.

I actually contributed three of them when Claudio posted the question to Quora as a way to come up with the motivations for checking-in (Friends, Fancying, and Freebies).  The other two hadn’t been on my mind, but I’d like to elaborate on all of them now.

Fun: First and foremost many of the check-in based social networks are games. People participate for the fun of it. They fiddle around and compete to achieve virtual status, badges, stickers, pins and many other prizes.

  • This was not one of my initial reasons, but I see where Claudio is coming from.  Services like Foursquare and SCVNGR were built with game mechanics in mind.  People choose to play these games for badges and points and to beat out other people on the service.  However, at a certain point the game mechanic seems to lose appeal and I think this may be a problem for SCVNGR somewhere down the road.  Foursquare has changed their core function from a gaming tool to a social tool and I believe, at a certain point, SCVNGR may have to do something similar to retain their current user base and not have to worry about gamer fatigue.

Friends: Finding friends is another significant category. You check in to find-out the “fauna & flora” in your neighborhood. The idea is to facilitate fortuitous face to face encounters with folks and fellows, and filter your frenemies. Furthermore, this includes other activities like flirting and going footloose fooling around (only if you fit-in).

  • When I posted my answer to Claudio’s question on Quora, I simply stated this first reason as “to be social.”  We use Facebook and Twitter as social tools and I believe location based services fall into the same category.
  • Here was my answer that I originally posted on Quora: When you check in your declaring your location to your network as are they to you. You want to see where your friends are and vice versa. Personally, I use it to show off. While I won’t usually checkin at the local coffee shop, I will use it when I visit somewhere cool (ex Yankee Stadium, Facebook HQ, etc).

Fancying: Are you a fan of a specific place? If so, you would like to feature this place in your comments, fostering and forming good opinions about it. Others will check-in to learn about favorite sites, and they might visit your preferred food place for your comments, doesn’t matter if it is frozen yogurt, french fries, falafel, fried fish, frappuccinos, or frosted flakes.

  • In my Quora answer, I called this reason “Recommendations.”  Services like Yelp and WHERE allow users to gain insight on where to pick up that falafel (if in NYC, go to Crisp) or leave insight on an amazing hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop (if in Boston, I recommend Mike & Patty’s)
  • Here was my answer that I originally posted on Quora: I think in the future this will be the main reason people check-in. Think of Netflix. We don’t rate movies for no apparent reason. Instead we rate movies to find other movies that may interest us. The same will happen with check-ins of the future. Imagine you check-in to a few bars in New York. Based on those bars, your location -based service (Foursquare, Yelp, etc) will be able to recommend not only other bars in New York, but bars in other cities as well. Although LBS can sometimes seem inclusive and a one-way experience, these services will benefit from mass adoption. The more users that take on these applications, the better the results will be and the more willing you will be to use it (think Facebook, Quora, Twitter – would they be any fun if you were the only one using it?).

Freebies: After the fun fades and you are tired of getting another flamboyant badge, and you find that looking for friends in a new city is a futile task, the FREEBIES are the reason that will keep you checking-in. You will check-in fishing for offers, fetching coupons and free stuff.

  • I originally called this reason “to gain deals” (“freebies” definitely has a better ring to it).  In my answer on Quora, I called this the main reason people we’re checking-in right now.  I actually would like to retract that comment and say that this will become a main focus in the future of location based services. LBS will become smarter and apps like Shopkick will become the new weekend circular.  Geo-fencing will allow more targeted deals. Even if they don’t want it, consumers may not be able to resist the urge of a discounted Dunkin’ Donuts coffee across the street.
  • Here was my answer that I originally posted on Quora: I think right now this is the main reason people check in. While I mentioned I won’t usually let my network know I’m at my local coffee shop, I may be motivated if there’s a perk to checking in (ex free pastry with 3 checkins).

Following: Following is my fifth category. And in this one I include following yourself (looking at your traveling history) and following others.

  • This one is interesting.  I’d actually put this one under the category of “Friends,” but I do like the idea of following my own traveling history.  It’s something I’ve never personally done, but who knows? Maybe in a year from now I’ll wanna see where I checked-in on Super Bowl Sunday.  I certainly have the interest to look back at my Facebook and Twitter history, so perhaps my Foursquare use may follow a similar suit.

Right now, I don’t think one app is quite nailed all five motivations.  Foursquare may be the closest, but I personally think they’re lacking in the “freebie” department and I’d like to be able to look back at my friends’ check-in histories.

Are there any Location Based Services that you think effectively use all five motivations? Let me hear your opinions!



3 thoughts on “The Five F’s of Checking-In

  1. Hi Maurice,

    Thank you for the mention and the further analysis.
    After some emails, tweets, and comments, I added 2 F categories in my book project.

    Fame: While this might be a sub-category of FUN, People check-in and compete to achieve virtual status, badges, stickers, pins and others, so they can brag and show to their friends. The motivation is not necessarily the FUN but the recognition (Fame)

    Flirt: While this might be a sub-category of Friends, People check-in to interact with other persons they not necessarily know. Some applications permit the communication between them, allowing to virtually flirt with people around you – not necessarily for friendship…

    Now they are 7, breaking the F of Five :-)

    If you liked that post I’d recommend this too:

    Thanks for contributing, thanks for reading.

    Best Regards,


  2. A well thought out article Maurice. Asking what makes people want to use location based sites such as, (and of course our startup is something we’re asking ourselves all the time.

    I’d agree with Claudio,

    “Fame: While this might be a sub-category of FUN, People check-in and compete to achieve virtual status, badges, stickers, pins and others, so they can brag and show to their friends. The motivation is not necessarily the FUN but the recognition (Fame)”

    People just love to be the pioneers, or seen as the expert. You see the same on amazon where people become expert reviewers.

    At Vixles HQ we’re setting things up to allow people to become ‘the local expert’.

  3. Cool topic. I love the breakdown of each category. I also like Claudio’s elaboration – particularly with the idea of “Fame.” I think that really speaks to the gaming nature of location-based services, where even if people aren’t receiving a physical reward, there is still an emotional appeal behind these gaming layers. Nice post!