How Foursquare Drives Success With Their Super User Program

Foursquare enriches consumer experiences and informs business decisions through a deep understanding of location intelligence. Every month, 50 million+ people use the Foursquare City Guide app, Foursquare Swarm check-in app and websites to discover new places, explore the world and check in. Foursquare’s Places API powers location data for Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Twitter, Uber, Airbnb and 100,000 other developers.

“Our customers are getting the answers they need in a timely manner, whether from other community members or from our team of moderators—we are really pleased!” Lizzy Kim
Community and Support Coordinator

The Challenges

The Foursquare community, built on Google Groups, didn’t deliver the desired customer and Super User experience; they needed something different to generate the engagement necessary for long term success.

The Launch

The launch of the first ever Foursquare branded community was simple and without issue.

The Search

Vanilla was the vendor of choice since it could be easily integrated with Foursquare’s existing ticket system and offered a wide range of tools that supported Super User engagement.

The Results

Foursquare saw a 15% boost in Super Users, who were able to rank up, execute permissions and communicate in their chosen language; today, the community has 45,000+ Super Users.

The ChallengesLooking To Stand Out In A Crowd

Foursquare was one of the first mobile apps to gamify location sharing, but as others began to enter this space that was once unique to Foursquare, the competition greatly intensified. While the Foursquare location database of more than 105 million places would now be competing for the attention of potential customers, it would also be vying for the continued commitment and dedication by its community. Afterall, the app relies on its more than 13 billion check-ins and over 50 million active users to keep its data fresh and relevant.


The Foursquare “community,” however, was currently functioning through Google Groups, but because it worked more like a mailing list, the actual sense of community was missing. For instance, people could directly reply to a discussion over and over via email, however they would never actually visit the group to see what else was going on. And so, user engagement was an issue for Foursquare since their Google Groups community just wasn’t enough to get people involved.

Victoria Ugarte, the Product Manager at Foursquare, knew that they needed to do something different to stand out. As Victoria says, “we wanted to avoid being seen as a soulless monolith as we grew.” She continues, “we wanted to bring a human face to the brand, we wanted transparency [and] all of this was possible [with an online community.]”

Victoria also knew that they needed a better way to communicate with their Super Users, since Google Groups didn’t function as the strategic and long term plan they were looking for, especially with the spike in competition. Super Users had been a key component of the Foursquare community from the beginning; there were a number of community members who were contributing about 8x the amount of a regular user. Victoria knew that they needed to do something to show these members their appreciation and recognition. She wanted to create a Super User experience. After all, it was the Super Users who they had to thank for making Foursquare the most trusted, independent technology platform upon which more than 150,000 brands and developers have built industry-leading products and services.

And so, Victoria knew that Foursquare needed a branded online community to create the customer experience, Super User recognition and the true sense of community that they were looking for.

Pain Points

No Dedicated Program for Super Users

Foursquare had hundreds of members who were considered to be “Super Users,” however there was no formalized and dedicated Super User Program to recognize, support and reward these individuals.

Limited Sense of Community

Foursquare was relying on Google Groups as the primary method of communication, especially with their Super Users. This was ineffective given that Google Groups functions much like a mailing list.

Low Engagement

Foursquare needed an engaged community to ensure the freshness of venue edits and their database, and they found that Google Groups wasn’t working for them anymore.

The Search The Best Tools for The Best Experience

As Victoria and Lizzy Kim, the Community and Support Coordinator, browsed and researched online community forum vendors, they made a list of possible choices and connected with each. But as it turned out, the search for the perfect vendor was easy; Vanilla Forums was selected as the vendor of choice as it was able to check off all the items on the Foursquare checklist.


Victoria and Lizzy were very pleased with the fact that Vanilla could integrate into the Foursquare credential system, which was a main item on their list when it came to forum functionality. The Vanilla Zendesk plugin worked seamlessly with their existing ticketing system, which meant less effort on their part when it came to escalating issues in the forum to their support team.


Additionally, they found that Vanilla had all the tools they needed to execute a top-tier Super User Program, and it was all included in the out-of-box price. The granular permissions and gamification were not only seen as central to the long-term success of their Super User Program, but also necessary to generate larger amounts of engagement across the board and increase customer experience.

Ultimately, they had found “the one,” and couldn’t have been happier with their decision.

The Qualtrics Checklist

Easy Integration

“Vanilla Forums was selected as the vendor of choice for its ability to integrate into the Foursquare credential system and for its ease of use.”

Super User Program

“By allowing our Super Users to connect with us in more meaningful ways, they take more pride in maintaining the database they helped to create.”


“With Vanilla gamification we were able to expand our ranking system from 3 to 10 levels, allowing our most involved members to rank up!’

Granular Permissions

“We really love Vanilla’s granular permissions since we can offer our members a greater range of abilities as they gain rank.”

The LaunchWithout Issue

Launching their first ever branded online community forum was an exciting time for Victoria, Lizzy and the entire Foursquare team. They knew that this would be the beginning of a lasting and successful Super User strategy. Ultimately, the launch went seamlessly and it didn’t take long for it to be up, running and successful.

The ResultsSuper User-tastic

Given that one of the primary functions of the Foursquare community was to elevate their Super Users through a dedicated Super User program, Foursquare was pleased to see immediate results—results that surpassed their expectations. From the day of the launch, they worked to leverage Vanilla’s granular permissions and ranking system; they implemented 10 levels in their ranking system, and with each level, they offered the user more abilities.

But it’s not just the ranking system and permissions that have contributed to the success of the Super User program. As Victoria explains, “what sets us apart from other similar communities is our transparency.” She continues, “by allowing our Super Users to connect with us in more meaningful ways, they take more pride in maintaining the database they helped to create.”

Today, there are more than 45,000 Super Users in the Foursquare community, which accounts for an approximate 15% boost since the launch.


“We saw a 15% boost in our Super Users and their contributions, which was amazing!”


The new Foursquare community, says Lizzy, was especially helpful in securing the engagement and participation of their international Super Fans, many of whom don’t speak English as a first language. She explains, “the forums are really the hub for our Super Users to communicate with us and one another, especially international users who might not be able to chat in real-time due to time-zone differences.” She continues, “the [community] ensures that they don’t miss out and can join in on the conversation whenever, wherever, and in their preferred language.”

The incredible results that the Foursquare community has had when it comes to Super Users is not only something that the community team has noticed, but also the whole organization. As Victoria explains, “I am easily able to demonstrate to internal stakeholders the incredible value [Super Users] generate by showing how their venue edits directly impact the experience for our entire community of users.” Moreover, this program has also allowed Victoria to designate Super Users and leverage their engagement to beta-test new features, which has had a positive impact on product development.

Additionally, the community results went beyond their Super User program and had an impact on their entire customer experience. Victoria concluded, “we have much better visibility into the community’s most pressing issues and can communicate with more transparency and frequency, improving the way we handle concerns and communicate changes.”

Sufficient to say, the decision to implement a Vanilla online community forum was the right choice; not only did they achieve all their intended Super User goals, but they also boosted their CX.

Reflecting on the Foursquare Journey

Transparency and communication were key Foursquare values that helped push them towards implementing an online community. They wanted to have a dedicated space for their valued Super Users that would set them apart from their competition and recognize and reward member contributions. Their decision to procure a Vanilla community was well received by their customers and Super Users, who have substantially increased in numbers. Will implementing a Vanilla community pay off big time for you as well? Find out—hit us up, we’d love to see if we’d be a good fit!

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