Whenever someone asks me if I use Foursquare, my answer is always the same: what’s the point? More often than not I completely forget to check in, and as a result I’ve probably probably checked in at a total of about 3 or 4 places since I first downloaded the app.

My own absent-mindedness aside, for some people, checking in is now second nature. That prompted me to start thinking, what is it that encourages someone to check in?

Whether you’re an avid Foursquare user or are wondering if you should bother using the app at all, there are a lot of ways you can put Foursquare to good use. Whether it’s educational, touristic, or even just a way of keep track of your daily routine; Foursquare can actually become a really useful tracking, educational and marketing tool.

Use Foursquare to make a last minute decision on where to go out

A great third party app that you can use with Foursquare is LocalMind. With LocalMind, you can find out if you’re going to have a long wait to be seated before heading out for dinner, for example, by asking someone who’s already checked in there. That’s just one of the ways LocalMind can come in handy. It’s a great service for finding out what’s going on at any given venue before heading out.

If you want to find out when the quietest time is to visit a museum, check out WhenShouldIVisit. There doesn’t seem to be any way to search the site, but you can always use Google to get around that, by using the following search method:

site:http://whenshouldivisit.iamdanw.com/ London Film Museum

Use Foursquare for discounts, deals and announcements

The most obvious way that checking in on Foursquare can be productive and useful is if you’re going to get discounts. Foursquare has made it easier than ever for businesses to offer discounts and special promotions to users who have checked in a certain number of times. Foursquare has also recently brought daily deals to the app’s users through Living Social, Gilt Groupe, AT&T, BuyWithMe, Zozi and most recently, Groupon.

There’s an amazing amount of potential to be had from using Foursquare if you’re a business. Not only does it give you an easy way to reward frequent customers, it also offers a unique method of interacting with them. Special offers and discounts and announcing special events or new features are just a few of the basic ways it can be used. Businesses can also reward Mayors of their establishment as one of the ways to encourage customers to keep coming back.

There’s a seemingly endless list of examples of businesses and organizations who have put Foursquare to good use. The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit offered a badge to riders, and awarded promotional train tickets to randomly selected users who checked in at its stations. Bravo TV uses Foursquare as a means of encouraging fans to visit locations that are connected to their TV shows to earn Bravo-specific badges.

There are also a few third party apps which make it easy to translate your Foursquare check-ins into real savings. Devotee is an example of an iPhone and Android app that plugs in to your Foursquare check-ins to earn you discounts.

Foursquare can even become a very personal way to reach out to your customers. If a customer checks in on Foursquare, acknowledging that in person could go a long way in making them feel special.

4sq 10 ways to get more out of Foursquare

Use Foursquare to get to know your city better

Users can share tips with each other about various locations. Checking out your friends’ tips can be a great way to discover new and interesting places to visit. You can also just as easily use the Foursquare ‘Explore’ feature to find somewhere to go while you’re out and about. Using a service like Scoville is a great way for residents to crowdsource information on the best spots to hangout in their city.

Foursquare’s newest feature, allowing anyone to create a page of their own, will also encourage users and businesses alike to contribute more substantial information about a venue. You can also follow brands like Zagat and The Onion, among many others, to discover new venues.

Create a treasure hunt

A few brands have already used Foursquare as a platform for treasure hunting. Coca Cola Australia created a treasure hunt of sorts, where the ‘Coke Machine Fairy’ checked in at special Coke vending machines to let users know where they could go to get the chance to win a prize.

Jimmy Choo also used Foursquare for a treasure hunt where winners walked away with a free pair of shoes. This model can be used by anyone, taking it beyond a marketing tactic, and turning it into a fun and educational tool.

Use Foursquare as an educational tool

Treasure hunts aren’t the only way to use Foursquare as an educational tool. Universities can use it as an orientation tool for new students, as has been done by Harvard University for example. Students can easily share information about various locations around campus. Harvard University took it a step further, encouraging students to explore the university by checking in at landmark spots on campus. Foursquare has certainly taken notice, and is adding more university oriented features this fall.

Universities, and just about anyone else, can also add historical images of a location or venue, bringing the concept of History Pin to Foursquare. Following the History Channel‘s page is another great way to discover interesting tidbits of information about a location.

Use Foursquare for lifelogging

You can use Foursquare as a way to keep track of your daily activities, visualize them on a map and more. This can be useful for a number of different reasons. You can use it as a means of making your schedule more efficient, by being able to view your daily activity on a map. Google Maps makes it easier than ever. Visit your feeds page, copy the KML feed and paste it into the Google Maps search box. You’ll instantly be able to see a worldwide map of all of your check-ins.

maps 10 ways to get more out of Foursquare

You can also use it as a diary of sorts, making it easy to know exactly where you were day after day, years later. 4Squareand7yearsago will send you a daily email letting you know where you were exactly one year ago to the day, based on your Foursquare check-ins.

Use Foursquare as a virtual tour guide

You can easily use Foursquare as a way of creating a virtual tour of your city. It’s a great way to share information with visitors on where to go, and lead them off the beaten path. You can create a tour out of your latest checkins by going on the tour yourself, and then creating a Google Map. You would have to physically check-in at each location yourself, in the correct order, and then create a Google Map of the tour. To limit the map to just the check-ins that you want to include in the tour, add “?count=1″ after .kml, where ’1′ is the number of check-ins included in the tour.

You can also use Foursquare’s Tips or To-Do list as a way of quickly putting together a virtual tour for others to follow.

Use Foursquare to fundraise

A while back, Pepsi and Foursquare paired up and turned the Foursquare New York leaderboard into a chance to make a charitable difference. It became a fundraising tool, where every point translated into a donation from Pepsi, with the aim of raising $10,000.

This model for fundraising can easily be replicated by any NGO or charity without having Foursquare directly involved. Simply find a business or venue that has a Foursquare presence to act as a sponsor. The sponsor can then donate a certain amount of money for each person who checks in at any of their branches.

 10 ways to get more out of Foursquare

Use Foursquare as a budget tracker

By making your check-ins private, you can use Foursquare as a way of keeping track of your spending. Using Foursquare as a budget tracker is useful in particular because you can get a better sense of the restaurants or venues where you’re spending most of your money.

An integrated feature in Foursquare allowing you to put in the details of your bill and generate summaries, while keeping that data private would be incredibly useful.

Use Foursquare as a to-do list

Foursquare can be used to create a location-based to-do list. Instead of creating an itinerary for someone else, if you have errands to run, why not add them to Foursquare? You can add locations from the comfort of your computer, and then take the to-do list on the go with you, and check them off as you go.

Have you come up with a unique or creative use for Foursquare? Let us know in the comments.