Gaining an edge as perks spark battles for Foursquare 'mayors'

The battle to be the "mayor" of a local store or restaurant on the popular location-sharing service Foursquare is heating up as Pizza Hut begins to offer Mayors a free order of bread sticks, starting August 10th, joining the collection of retailers offering their most frequent customers a reward. As the real world benefits of being a virtual mayor become more tangible, the competition, and tools to be on the top, are increasing.

For those unfamiliar with Foursquare, the mayor of a location is the person who has visited a venue the most in the past 60 days. So, if you were to check in with Foursquare at your local Pizza Hut more than any other Foursquare user, you would become the mayor and earn free bread sticks. The title can change as soon as someone else checks in more than you which can lead to back-and-forth battles for control of a favorite local watering hole, pizza shop or retail outlet.

Some Foursquare members will compete for mayoral honors even in the absence of discounts. In Findlay, Ohio Jay Yeater is in a constant battle to be mayor of a local coffee house Coffee Amici. The friendly competition is only about pride, he says, and hasn't resulted in any nefarious activities. But he admits to making, "special trips to get coffee, even while out of town, just to "check in" and get mayor status," or arriving" super early" to steal the throne. His competition, Tamera Rooney, says she, too, has made special trips when she notices a competitor has checked in.

Those looking for an edge in such virtual mayoral races can turn to websites such as MayorFight, When Will I be Mayor and Be The Mayor. All offer users the ability to see how many check ins they need to become mayor. And For users who want to check in in automatically anytime they are near a favorite location, even if they aren't inside, the Future Check in app available for the iPhone will automatically check you in without the need to take your phone out of your pocket.

While checking into a venue with Foursquare only requires that you be near the location, a new tool called ShopKick is aimed at automatically checking you in, but only if you are physically in the store. ShopKick will kick off later this year at Best Buy locations where after verifying that a user is actually in the store rewards like gift certificates and discounts will be unlocked.

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