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Listings on foursquare: ingenious, dangerous or spamtastic?

Foursquare has been a polarizing little app for the real estate community. People seem to love it or hate it. When it launched, Foursquare was used by the plugged-in as a game, a fun way to interact with each other and with the public. More recently, businesses, including the real estate industry, have begun to investigate ways to take Foursquare to another level, namely promotion of their business. In real estate, this would mainly be promoting your own office if you have a bricks and mortar location, and/or promoting individual listings. If the debate on the usefulness (or moron rating) of Foursquare wasn’t hot enough already, adding listings to it has had the effect of taking the discussion out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Here is the debate in a nutshell: Agents add their listings to Foursquare as a promotional tool. They can offer rewards to those who check-in (a good open house promotional tool), can add tips to try and drive extra traffic if people check-in nearby, or add info about the property (including a single property URL if they have one) with the idea that their friends and followers may look into the property if they see the agent checking in via Foursquare or other social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook. Seems like an ingenius and free angle to easily add a layer of marketing of the listings, right?

“Not so fast!”, claim the nay-sayers… “that is dangerous, how would the new buyers feel if people were driving by and actually trying to check-in to their new home?”

“Hmmm, well, for one, the venue could be “taken down” after the home sold and it already is on the internet in likely dozens of locations already such as, and Zillow.” rebuts the Foursquare-enthusiast. “It’s not that people try to get inside a house without a Realtor or appointment just because they see it for sale on an app.”

“I don’t want to be spammed by all these listings from the Fourquare users, Facebook people and Twitter friends I follow” chimes in another member of the discussion.

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“Well, if the average agent lists, say one to four listings a month, is it spam to see them checking in to a new listing one to four times a month?”

Where do I stand on the issue? I think for areas that have a vibrant Foursquare using population, it can be a great way to generate some additional interest for the listing and give the listing agent additional coverage in their farm area. If handled correctly, it doesn’t have to be spam and it can be taken down as a venue when sold, thereby not bothering the new buyers. I don’t buy into the idea that it is any more or less dangerous for the sellers than having their home listed on the internet, there are going to be drive-bys just like there already are drive-bys for any actively marketed home and if I were the seller, the more marketing the better.

This post was sparked by a discussion which started on our weekly Miami Real Estate Tweet Chat. (you can read the transcript on the link) People do feel strongly one way or the other, what do you think?

Listings on Fourquare? Clever, Dangerous or just plain Spam?

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Written By

Janie has been in the development, construction and real estate industries for over 20 years. She began her career in commerical construction and has slowly worked into all of the related industries and added residential properties to her resume 7 years ago. She is currently the co-owner of sister companies, Papillon Real Estate and Papillon ReDevelopment (a construction and project management firm). Janie blogs for The Coral Gables Story. In her "free" time, she is a graduate student of Atlantic History with a focus on the history of business and technology. She is a lover of geo-anything. She loves the story.



  1. Maureen McCabe

    April 28, 2010 at 9:41 am

    Interesting but as I have only “checked in” on Foursquare twice… and currently have no listings, I probably do not deserve an opinion.

    I never thought of Foursquare being for real estate, I have seen a few people check in at their office or call out a listing.

    Do a lot of the listings on Trulia and Zillow get taken down after the homes sell? I hear lots of whining on ActiveRain about agents who can not get taken a property down whenever Sara Bonert or Spencer R. post about their business. Patient Sara (or is it Sarah?) tells the agents how to take their listings down over and over. I wonder how many actually do get removed.

    Foursquare littered with old real estate stuff? hmmmm

    • Janie Coffey

      April 28, 2010 at 9:54 am

      Interesting ideas right? I’ll be interested to see where the discussion leads. Old listings still on the internet are a pain, it is my hope that the portals will resolve that issue with time.

      You always deserve an opinion, listings or no, and a fresh outside voice is especially useful to the discussion.

  2. Mike McGrath

    April 28, 2010 at 10:13 am

    Its an innovative use, and with time I’m sure we will figure out best practices. Any increase in using (and trying) social media for real estate is welcome as it is mostly unrealized potential.

    • Janie Coffey

      April 28, 2010 at 10:21 am

      yes, I think letting the best practices bubble up to the top is the best way to go. Unfortunately, I don’t know if that can happen without a few “bloopers” along the way….

  3. David Pylyp

    April 28, 2010 at 10:15 am

    Recently had this conversation with Beatrice Pitocco a Vaughan Mortgage Broker. We have consumers that are slightly educated and somewhat informed because they read it somewhere on the internet. Posting listings everywhere is going to eventually just CLOG the internet highway with old stale data that continues to be searchable. That listing at 123 Anywhere street in West Toronto will still appear in the Google Photo stream because it is in the data cloud.

    All these vital points to and for us to clear out the old data; but how do you make the other sites comply ie FSBO’s You tube, Video streams “retired and expired” agents sites that are still active.

    What would you suggest?

    David Pylyp
    Living in Toronto ShopTOism

    • Janie Coffey

      April 28, 2010 at 10:23 am

      I agree, old and dead listings (or anything for that matter) are a pain. Google base looses some of its effectiveness for just this reason. I know that the RE Portals get grief about it, so I would hope that they will automatically update with a status change ( does), but there has to be better systems in place to do this.

      For now, with Foursquare, the only way to assure this would be to make it part of your post-closing routine (all the portals really)…

  4. Nobu Hata

    April 28, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Wow, I just had this convo on Twitter with @rerockstar and @therealclint. Personally, I only put listings on 4SQ that are near high-traffic check-in spots driving folks to the home’s website, being cognizant of my noise to signal ratio and removing the listing once it’s sold. It started as an experiment, and ended with me picking up buyers at an open house I hosted. It won’t work for all listings, and it’s worth a shot for those I feel that are and I’ve since made a lot of meaningful connections on that particular platform that way.

    Being mindful of the noise to signal ratio on all SM platforms is going to be key, you can switch out 4SQ for Facebook or Twitter in this conversation and it’ll apply.

    • Janie Coffey

      April 28, 2010 at 10:50 am

      I totally agree. 1) you shoudl do it where there is good traffic and FSq users, otherwise it’s not too effective, 2) Agree about removing it when it sells and 3) I think being mindful of all of our SM messages is the key to a good positive reception on anything we do on SM

  5. Fred Romano

    April 28, 2010 at 10:34 am

    I agree, manual posting of homes is just stupid, as most agents will forget to remove them when they sell, expire, cancel, etc… I think the best method is through portals where IDX feeds from the MLS. That way it gets removed appropriately. Trulia is perfect example.

    • Janie Coffey

      April 28, 2010 at 10:51 am

      the MLS feed is definitely the BEST way to make sure data is current (for now 😉

  6. Matt Stigliano

    April 28, 2010 at 10:37 am

    JanieC – A couple of people and I were just discussing this on Twitter the other day. I had checked into my new listing and they had some questions about it (they were industry people). Here’s my thinking – I probably won’t sell a house through Foursquare. I truly doubt it. If it happens, I’ll be the first one to report back and tell everyone, but I really can’t imagine Foursquare being a tool to find your next home. If a consumer’s looking there for homes, they’re not finding much – not everyone uses Foursquare and not every listing appears there, so to focus in on it (as a consumer) seems like an absolute waste of time. It would be an amazing result of coincidence if someone saw you check in and they wanted a house in that neighborhood, at that price, with those amenities at that exact moment. You have a better chance at sending out just listed cards I would think.

    Where do I see the benefit? Good ‘ol “top of mind awareness.” We have a pretty good user base for Foursquare here in San Antonio – many of the people on it would fall somewhere within my social network. Does it hurt to gently remind them that I’m a Realtor®? I think there’s an obvious benefit there, just as there is mentioning on Twitter that you’re ____________ (insert real estate related activity here).

    Much like Twitter or Facebook I think it has less to do with the message and more to do with the listener. Are you sending out Foursquare (whether on the site or feeding it to Facebook or Twitter) updates to agents 6,000 miles away or are you talking to the locals? Which do you think is going to matter more to your business? Yes, referral business is a good thing, but local business is where it’s at. That builds more referrals. An agent in Hawaii might have a referral for me, but will they have a consistent stream of them? Probably not (although there is a military base there, so that might be a bad example). A local resident could build a much better referral stream.

    If the locals don’t know what you do and they’re not talking to you, Foursquare is useless. If you’re talking and interacting with locals and using Foursquare, it may just set off that lightbulb – “oh, Matt’s a real estate agent, I should call him about Uncle Bob.”

    • Janie Coffey

      April 28, 2010 at 10:54 am

      it’s Mike Mueller’s Breadcrumbs, which I completely agree with. Getting your name out there in a softer way and adding exposure to your listings. I am sure there is a “right way” and a “wrong way” to do it, as there is with direct mail, email blasts, social media, etc. How to come across as useful, knowledgeable and pertinent without being spammy and used-carsalesmanlike.

      Interesting that this topic has seemed to be surfacing all over the place!

      I don’t know how often any listing is sold directly from social media in general, or open houses for that matter, but combined, they all add that exposure for the listings and top of mind awareness for that agent which we seek (done properly of course)

  7. Clint Miller

    April 28, 2010 at 10:41 am

    Personally, I think this is GENIUS!! I love FourSquare…and this is a brilliant way to help bring ‘top-of-mind’ awareness to those new listings in a sphere of influence on a national level.

    Great idea!! Wish I had thought of it. 😉

    • Janie Coffey

      April 28, 2010 at 10:56 am

      thanks Clint, I see you and I think alike 😉

  8. Schnik

    April 28, 2010 at 10:57 am

    I only speak for myself.

    I am not an agent, I’m only peripherally related to Real Estate through my job. Although, I am an avid Foursquare user. I agree that the information is already out there, although, usually the information is presented in a manner that gives the Agent control over the information. In some cases. With Foursquare, even the Level-up’d users, such as myself, can recommend a location be marked as closed, but it’s ultimately up to the “Foursquare Gods” to close it or not. You, as the user/location-adder do not have that dispensation.

    Now, onto the safety concerns – Many people do not know the inherent risks of checking into Foursquare. I know it seems crazy to have to say it, but your check-in’s are *not* private. Anyone who has access to Foursquare can see any check in they would like, unless you mark the “Off The Grid” option. So, just because you only sent your check in to your friends, this does not mean that only your friends can see it.
    I refer you to this website, since it caused quite a ruckus when it was created. I think it is defunct now, but it’s well worth a mention here. This site was predicated on one simple thing. A twitter search for anything with the search term “”. What does that mean you ask? When you send your check-ins to Twitter, Foursquare adds a link that allows the people who see your check-in to actually see a GoogleMap of your check-in location. Pretty Easy, eh? Now if your check-in said something like this… “I’m working an Open House today, come see me” (And included that link)… You have potentially just told the world that you are at a potentially vacant location. We all know, from various Realtor Safety Week pamphlets, that, that is not a good idea, and we all know “That’ll never happen to me”…

    Finally, I refer you to something that happened in conjunction with the above information – A local PR expert here in Portland, didn’t seem to think Foursquare was dangerous – Although, she was not attacked physically – the information out there is enough to make you think (See link below)

    Remember, you’re not only exposing yourself to these potential issues, you’re now exposing your Sellers and your Buyers, opening the door to all sorts of potential issues, don’t you think? I don’t know anyone who likes Ethics Panels, Litigation, or even worse, being robbed…

    Just my humble opinion, what say you?

    • Janie Coffey

      April 28, 2010 at 11:20 am

      I agree with all of the safety concerns (of check-ins, open houses, etc.) but I think we already run those risks… For example, each time we promote an open house, anywhere, we are telling the world we (may be) alone at an open house. Anytime we check-in, we are making our location known, we have to find a way to do that which is safe and aware.

      I agree about the old listings thing, I didn’t know that a cancellation has to be “approved” so to speak, something to consider for sure.

      We, as agents especially, make ourselves much more public and vulnerable in many ways. They key is finding a way to be visible, but not exposed.

      All very good points you bring up.

    • Nobu Hata

      April 28, 2010 at 12:12 pm

      Valid point. Thing is, the moment the “For Sale” sign goes into the ground, the home becomes a potential target. I tell my clients that it’s my job to expose the listing as much as possible to the widest spectrum of buyers possible turning over every rock to try to find them. With that exposure comes potential hazards, and it’s up to us to prepare our clients for it. There’s just as much hazard in a public facing MLS, then there is on socialmedia.

  9. Danny @ Tampa Real Estate

    April 28, 2010 at 11:09 am

    I don’t understand how it can be dangerous. It is just another avenue to promote your listing. I do agree right now it probably won’t help you sell a home but it can be a way to help you get your name out there as well, there may be people who use foursquare that don’t use Twitter or Facebook.

    • Janie Coffey

      April 28, 2010 at 11:22 am

      agreed, additional exposure and coverage. Safety is a concern (ie don’t check-in anywhere if you are alone and not in a public place) being aware and conscious of the info you put out can help alleviate those risks…

  10. Geordie Romer | Leavenworth WA

    April 28, 2010 at 11:28 am

    I started experimenting with listings on Foursquare only recently. We work in a tourist destination and sell lots of vacation homes and I expect that Foursquare users will be visiting and checking in all over the place here this summer.

    One of the benefits of Foursquare is that it allows you to “be where the buyers are.” Putting a listing on Foursquare says “I’m one of you; a little geeky and I play with my smart phone just a little too much.”

    I think that manual input is key to keeping the signal to noise ratio reasonable. If every listing is put in via a feed, you will have listings by people who aren’t otherwise on Foursquare. You will have multiple versions of the same house at different prices and it will be a big mess.

    • Dean Ouellette

      April 28, 2010 at 11:52 am

      I really like that I am one of you comment. If they are not on 4sq it doesnt matter, but if they are there is the connection, no downside to it

    • Janie Coffey

      April 28, 2010 at 12:00 pm

      yes, I used to think that as well, but when I see sooooo many in my area on Foursquare, you are right, it is a great way to connect. It is really becoming quite popular here in Miami.

  11. Dean Ouellette

    April 28, 2010 at 11:51 am

    I have not read all these comments, just the post. I used to think adding a listing to 4sq was a waste, then one day when i was out showing to a couple who DID NOT want to look at short sales I noticed on 4sq there was a listing down the street from us that said “pre-approved short sale” I called the agent and showed the house. Now we did not move forward to purchase it, but the showing and opportunity never would have happened if it was not on 4sq.

    I love one idea in here. When I do open houses I do the if you sign in you get registered for a $50 Home Depot gift card. Well why not if you check in on 4sq you get another entry so you can get 2 entries by signing and and checking in. Now when they check in I can friend them on 4sq. I like the opportunity

    • Janie Coffey

      April 28, 2010 at 12:02 pm

      Dean, this is a PERFECT example of how FourSq worked to that agents’ benefit. I can’t think of a more perfect example of why those 2 minutes are worth you while than yours! Looking forward to reading your post on later today!

  12. Beth Butler

    April 28, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Janie – you know I think 4sq will be huge in Real Estate. I think initially, the check in by a showing agent and discreet feedback can be extremely helpful for sellers and buyers. Think of it as Yelp for real estate listings. The Tip portion has future potential to really push the real estate application beyond any existing social media tool.

    • Janie Coffey

      April 28, 2010 at 6:12 pm

      I definitely think the “tip” section is an underutilized and very powerful feature. That is the secret sauce to drive traffic when people are close by the listing (as Dean pointed out in his comments above)

  13. akknowsrealestate

    April 30, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    Very excited to see a post about this. I just did this for the first time the other evening when I went to show my listing. I created my listing as a Venue, checked-in, and then shouted to my friends, Facebook network, and Twitter followers that I was showing my listing. I got some really great comments on these posts on Facebook and Twitter. My seller was especially pleased when she saw the post go up on Facebook. I added features of the property via the tips section for the venue (ie listing). I am actually contemplating creating a Foursquare sign rider to catch the attention of passersby. Has anyone that adds their listings to Foursquare done anything with signage like this?

    • Janie Coffey

      May 1, 2010 at 7:11 am

      I add the single property listing site (you can only do this on the website, I couldn’t find out where to do this from the mobile phone) and am messing around with do a short text back to the URL as well, using, haven’t gotten it allll to click yet, but working on it.

      I am also trying to use the selective tweets facebook app to send my checkin to my facebook fan page, not there just yet, but working on it…

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