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Sonya Sorich: Need a tour guide? Try the revamped Foursquare app

So, have you heard about this thing called Foursquare?

I was a casual observer of the location-based social networking service until April of this year, when a local Foursquare Day meetup renewed my interest in the smartphone app.

For the uninitiated, Foursquare is a social networking site that lets users "check in" to various locations using a mobile device. Checking in can earn you points, discounts and sometimes even the coveted role of mayor.

At the aforementioned local meetup, I learned popular Foursquare check-ins in Columbus include Walmart, Chick-fil-A, Columbus State University, Starbucks, Columbus Metropolitan Airport and Max Fitness.

Those were some of the top check-ins during a 90-day period that local business Stand And Stretch monitored earlier this year. The research focused on Foursquare check-ins that could be tracked through Twitter.

I agree with a common assessment of the app: Foursquare is often more fun to use when you're on vacation. I was active on Foursquare while recently vacationing in Biloxi, Miss., and surprisingly took a great amount of pride in being crowned mayor of the hotel pool.

But exploration is also a huge factor in Foursquare's appeal. Need proof? Foursquare has revamped its app to focus even more on the recommendations and suggestions that help its users navigate a new -- or even familiar -- place.

After all, Foursquare is how I ended up walking near a sketchy liquor store in Biloxi, praying my smartphone hadn't failed me.

Foursquare told me about Jazzeppi's early in my trip. Its GPS component pulled up the local restaurant in a list of places that sat near my hotel room. Foursquare users had written tips raving about the hot spot.

So I escaped the hotel's familiar restaurants, took the walk and had a fantastic dinner. I discovered the place solely through Foursquare.

I had a similar experience on the ride home, when after approaching my hunger breaking point I typed "cafe" into Foursquare's search function and found an enticing eatery amid seemingly bleak surroundings.

If an emphasis on "where are you now?" has kept you away from Foursquare, don't overlook the app's tour guide potential. It's a great way to explore your surroundings -- no mayoral aspirations necessary.

Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at ssorich@ledger-enquirer.com or 706-571-8516. Visit ledger-enquirer.com/sonya to read her columns.

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