One of the most popular features of Foursquare is the ability for users to earn badges when they check in at various locations. Foursquare has a number of built-in badges, such as the mayor badge and the adventurer badge, but businesses and brands can also apply to have their own custom badges incorporated into the Foursquare application.

Due to the extremely high demand for custom badges, however, Foursquare is very selective in the types of badges it approves. If getting a custom badge on Foursquare is part of your marketing plan, keep these tips in mind before submitting your application.

Expand Check-in Locations

Expand Check-in Locations

In Foursquare, badges show up in each person’s profile once they’ve been “unlocked” by physically checking in to a location. For custom badges, however, Foursquare wants to spread the love; the more people who have a chance at unlocking a badge, the better.

For example, in 2010, users checked in to Super Bowl parties all over the world; it was one of Foursquare’s most successful check-in days ever. So, for the 2011 Super Bowl, Foursquare teamed up with the NFL to offer two custom badges which were up for grabs to users all over the world.

For this badge execution, Foursquare created a global venue so that anyone, anywhere, could check in. To earn a badge, you also had to give a shout out to your favorite team. By including “Go Steelers” or “Go Packers” in your check-in, you could unlock one of the two custom NFL badges.

That being said, Foursquare still likes to offer some exclusivity. For those who were lucky enough to be at the big game, a special badge was on offer for all who checked in at the North Texas location of the Super Bowl.

Offer Special Rewards or Unique Redemption Opportunities

Offer a Unique Reward

Foursquare loves it when there is more to a badge than just a virtual reward and bragging rights. In the Super Bowl example above, fans who unlocked any of the three custom badges were sent a special code for 20% off merchandise at the NFL’s online store.

Last year, the New York City Marathon teamed up with Foursquare to take raising money for charity to a new level. Upon completing the race, Foursquare users unlocked the New York City Marathon Badge, and had a donation made to Camp Interactive — a non-profit organization that helps inner-city youth — on their behalf.

Provide a Story Arc

Create a Story Arc to get your Foursquare Badge approved

According to Foursquare, it also helps if your badge has a story. For example, Comedy Central satirical news hosts Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart wanted to engage their viewers in a discussion about the 2010 mid-term elections via competing live events in Washington, DC.

Attendees could check in to their rally of choice on Foursquare to unlock one of the event badges — with either a Colbert or Stewart likeness on the badge. The badge you unlocked was meant to show your support for either camp. Results were then tallied live on the Comedy Central website.

In this case, the event was more than just checking in to unlock a badge. The bigger story was that the badge campaign got people talking about and following the mid-term election. So, the greater the narrative your create around your badge campaign, the more likely Foursquare is to approve it.

How to Submit Your Badge Application to Foursquare

Once you’ve got a solid idea in mind for your custom badge, the next step is pitching the idea to Foursquare. All applications must be submitted through Foursquare’s business page, where you’ll be asked to complete on online form. To get the attention of the approval team, your idea must be solid, easy to communicate, and in line with the key elements Foursquare is looking for in a custom badge.

Finally, if you intend to submit a custom badge application, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got enough money in your budget. Currently, Foursquare’s minimum badge commitment is three months at $25,000 per month.

Have you had the opportunity to work on a custom badge proposal with Foursquare? Was it successful? Share your experiences in the comments below.

[Image credit: striatic, ecstaticist, Stuck in Customs, Dray-Dray]