Foursquare is one of the most popular mobile marketing tools for local businesses today, but it’s also a tool with its own unique language. You can’t effectively market your business with Foursquare until you know what all of those terms mean.

For example, terms like “check-in” and “friends” might seem self-explanatory, but do you know what a “mayor” is? Do you know what “swarm specials” or “flash specials” are?

Once you claim your venue on Foursquare, you can start getting creative and developing specials that can drive new and repeat business. First, review the 25 Foursquare terms and definitions below, so you can fully leverage everything this platform has to offer.

Basic Foursquare Terms for Users

For businesses that want to use Foursquare for marketing purposes, here are the basic Foursquare terms that you’ll likely come across as you use the application.

1. Check-in: A Foursquare check-in is the term used to identify when a member has physically visited (or checked in to) a venue. Checking in to a venue tells Foursquare friends where a member is and allows the member to earn points and badges.

2. Venue: A venue is a business, physical location, or residence where Foursquare members can check-in.

3. Friends: Foursquare friends can share their locations with each other.

4. Badges: Badges are the rewards that members earn based on their check-in activities at Foursquare venues.

5. Points: Foursquare members earn points when they complete certain actions such as checking into venues. Points are calculated on a seven-day rolling basis.

6. Mayor: The Foursquare member with the most number of “days” with check-ins at a venue within the past 60 days is named the mayor of that venue. Only members with photos in their image profiles can become mayors.

7. Tips: Any member can leave tips on venues for other members to see. Tips could be recommendations, warnings, and any other information a member wants to share in order to make their friends’ visits to the venue better.

8. To-Do’s: Foursquare members can leave to-do’s on venues, which are meant to be personal reminders for next time they visit the venue.

9. Rapid Fire Check-in: In order to ensure people don’t check into Foursquare venues without actually visiting them, Foursquare uses behind-the-scenes controls to flag invalid check-ins. One such control is the rapid fire check-in. When a member sees the rapid fire check-in message, it means he or she has checked in to a large number of venues within a short period of time. That member won’t get points, badges, or other rewards for those check-ins.

10. Off-the-Grid: When members want to check into a venue privately, they can select the “Don’t share with my friends” button to check in off-the-grid. Their friends won’t be notified of the check-in, but it will appear in the member’s private check-in history.

11. Radar: iPhone users can turn the radar feature on in Foursquare to get push notifications when they’re close to venues of interest.

12. Superuser: Foursquare Superusers have a special Superuser wing emblem displayed on their profiles identifying them as members of the Foursquare Superuser program. These members work behind the scenes to keep Foursquare venues organized.

13. Lists: Members can create lists that include venues, tips, and photos. Lists can be shared with friends and depending on the settings the creator chooses, friends can even collaborate and add content to lists.

14: Leaderboard: The leaderboard updates anytime a member checks into a venue. It shows how he or she compares against other Foursquare friends over the preceding seven days.

Advanced Foursquare Terms for Businesses

Now that you’ve gotten a handle on the basic terms and definitions of Foursquare, here are some advanced definitions you should also know.

15. Follow: Businesses can add the Follow button to their websites, blogs, and so on. Foursquare members can click the Follow button wherever it appears on a web page to follow that brand on Foursquare. By following a brand, the member will see the brand’s tips and more.

16. Save to Foursquare button: Businesses can add the Save to Foursquare button on their websites, blogs, and so on. Foursquare members can click the button at any time to immediately add it to their To-Do lists on Foursquare.

17. Manager: The manager of a Foursquare venue is the person in charge of that venue. That person can add specials, edit address information, view venue analytics and more. Managers must claim the venue and be approved by the Foursquare staff.

18. Flash Special: Flash specials are just like flash sales. They’re typically available on a first-come first-served basis with a limit that defines when sales will end.

19. Friends Special: These specials are given to members who check-in to a venue with a predefined minimum number of friends.

20. Swarm Special: Swarm specials require that a certain number of Foursquare members need to check into a venue within a specific timeframe.

21. Newbie Special: These specials are given to members the first time they visit a venue.

22. Wildcard Special: Wildcard specials require participation by employees at the venue. Typically, they have to verify an extra condition before awarding the special. For example, a bar might have a wildcard special where a member has to check-in and show a bartender his or her mobile phone and check-in status in order to get a free drink.

23. Check-in Special: Check-in specials unlock every time a specific condition is met, such as a check-in.

24. Mayor Special: Venue mayors are loyal, repeat customers, and Mayor Specials are intended to recognize that loyalty.

25. Loyalty Special: Loyalty specials can reward any behavior the venue chooses. For example, a loyalty special could offer a member a reward once he or she checks in 10 times.

[Image credits: lululemon athletica, Joshua Kaufman, Dennis Crowley]