Social Media and $$ - from a consumer POV

In the past two months, I’ve made two trips to the States, which as a Canadian means loads of mobile phone data roaming charges. For someone addicted to the location service  Foursquare, this means I’m spending money to use the free service.

Why do I like Foursquare? It’s a social game that takes the conversation offline. I was a doubter at first, but then I became a mayor of a location, which is given to a user who “checks in” the most (plus a bunch of other secret algorithms only Foursquare understands). When I became mayor for the first time, I thought “cool,” but I wasn’t addicted to checking into everywhere I went.  *And then someone took the mayoralship away from me. *It struck a competitive chord in me. Soon I was challenging coworkers who could become mayor of the workplace, inadvertently stealing the mayorship from my bf at our fave restaurants… so much fun. I later learned it’s also a blast to earn hard-to-get badges.

On vacation, particularly in the States, Foursquare is an amazing recommendation engine. I check into a restaurant and then review the tips written usually by locals who suggest what to order from the menu, where to sit, and what to avoid. Thanks to Foursquare, I ate some amazing sushi, avoided another restaurant and felt like I was in “the know” in a strange land.

Data roaming charges, however, could affect my use of this service in cities outside of my own because of the high roaming fees. I suspect those without a 3G plan are in the same boat – even those who love services such as Facebook or Twitter. Say you’re in a new city on Twitter, your followers will give you advice on where to go – even if you ask for tips or not.

Starbucks’ free Wifi in all of its locations helped people like me get onto their social media where ever we end up. It’s also a fabulous marketing tool for the coffee chain as most people will tell their friends on Twitter or check in to Foursquare that they’re at Starbucks.

But what’s the solution to help location-based services blossom into this potential of tourism check-ins and become the recommendation engines they’re turning into? Should Twitter sponsor more wifi locations? Should locations that want to exploit the Foursquare marketing tool offer wifi? Thoughts?