Foursquare is a technology platform that powers business and consumer experiences through a deep understanding of location. Back in 2009, Foursquare burst onto the scene when it introduced the world to the concept of checking in and real-time location sharing through its eponymous app. In 2014, five years after their launch at South By Southwest, the company split the original Foursquare app into two. The new Foursquare City Guide app focused on discovery and exploration, while the Foursquare Swarm app focused on checking in and remembering everywhere through life-logging.

From the very beginning, Superusers have been a key component of the Foursquare community. Superusers are the dedicated and passionate members of the Foursquare community that help maintain Foursquare’s database of venues and contribute 8x more content than average users. This has helped make Foursquare the most trusted, independent technology platform upon which more than 150,000 brands and developers have built industry-leading products and services.

With more than 13 billion check-ins and over 50 million active users across Foursquare’s apps and websites, that’s a ton of user-generated content. With people around the world interacting using these apps every day, it’s critical that the company’s global database of more than 105 million places is not only accurate but also updated with fresh and relevant content. Foursquare’s Victoria Ugarte, Product Manager and Lizzy  Kim, Community & Support Coordinator joined us for a discussion on how Vanilla helps Foursquare’s Superusers stay informed and engaged.

The Challenge

Even though Foursquare was one of the first mobile apps to gamify location sharing, there are now many new entrants to the space. They knew there was a need, not only to differentiate themselves but also to ensure that they had the richest and most reliable database possible. Thus, the Foursquare Superuser program was born.

As Victoria told us, “Superusers mean a lot to Foursquare. They are the custodians of our location database and our best digital cartographers. They maintain and add to the Places Database and perform community outreach on behalf of the company. I am easily able to demonstrate to internal stakeholders the incredible value they generate by showing how their venue edits directly impact the experience for our entire community of users, and how we also leverage their engagement to beta-test new features. This activity and engagement are what our team is responsible for.”

Before Vanilla Forums, Foursquare was using Google Groups, but because it functioned more like an email listserv, the sense of community seemed to be missing. People could directly reply to a discussion over and over via email and never actually visit the group to see what else was going on.

When Foursquare made the decision to split their original app into Swarm and City Guide, they decided they needed a better way to communicate with their Superusers.

The Solution

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. They leverage our granular permissions and ranking system as they expanded the Superuser program from 3 to 10 levels, allowing them to offer a greater range of user abilities as people ranked up.

Furthermore, Vanilla worked well with Foursquare’s existing ticketing system in Zendesk. With the Vanilla Forums Zendesk plugin, they were able to quickly escalate issues in the forum directly to their support team so that issues were addressed quickly and effectively.

The forum is complemented by a dedicated Slack channel for only Level 10 Superusers, which is used for special circumstances that require a real-time connection to the Foursquare team.

Victoria highlighted another critical reason for creating a living, breathing, forum for Foursquare’s Superusers: “We wanted to avoid being seen as a soulless monolith as we grew. We wanted to bring a human face to the brand. We wanted transparency. All of this became possible when we gave our Superuser’s direct access to the product, engineering and community teams in the forums.”

The Results

Today there are more than 45,000 Superusers in the Foursquare forum.  As Victoria told us: “What sets us apart from other similar communities is our transparency. By allowing our Superusers to connect with us in more meaningful ways they take more pride in maintaining the database they helped to create. We reward this participation with events like our quarterly townhalls with Foursquare’s co-founder Dennis Crowley that gave the community direct, behind-the-scenes access to our product development process.”

“Once we became more actively involved with our Superuser community, we saw a direct lift of 15% in our Superuser Community,”  said Ugarte.

Lizzy noted that the forums have become especially critical for their international community of Superusers. “The forums are really the hub for our Superusers 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 and connect to solve local issues with the database. The forums ensure that they don’t miss out and can join in on the conversation whenever, wherever, and in their preferred language.”

Victoria concluded,“The main goal of the forum was to create a sense of community, but we also received many other benefits. Now 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.”

To learn more about the Superuser Program at Foursquare and join this unique community, check it out here: If you haven’t used any of the apps before, you can also start your journey by downloading Foursquare City Guide and Swarm in the Apple and Android app stores.