This week we are discussing foursquare: What it is, how companies can benefit from it, and what are some of the potential dangers of using Foursquare (and other location-based services) for individual participants?

First, lets start with what foursquare is. Pete Cashmore, founder and CEO of Mashable is also contributing to as a weekly columnist on social media and technology. He is undoubtably one of the go-to guys for anything and everything social media. In his CNN article he helps clarify what foursquare is. “The location-based mobile startup serves a simple purpose: It lets an individual share his or her location with a group of friends.” Foursquare has quickly caught on as the newest online addiction where you can “check-in”. When you “check-in” you let people know where you are or things to do for people in the are. “Foursquare will keep track of the things you’ve done, help you create To-Do lists and even suggest new experiences to seek out.” You earn points for checking in and can earn different badges. The most loyal patron can also become the “mayor”, which comes with perks. Many businesses are offering freebies to people who are the “mayor”.

Foursquare benefits companies, just as it benefits consumers. Consumer, as we have seen on all social networks, are turning to other consumers for information on businesses and where to take their patronage. Foursquare is consumer driven testimonies which lead to free advertising, promotion, and branding for companies. Just as Facebook hopes to link people with its brand through their fan page, foursquare allows customers to share with other where and how they spend their time. Companies benefit from these conversations, because instead of advertisers telling us what a company is all about, now our friends and family are informing us.

This constant update and public announcements of where you go and spend your time could potentially pose a threat. This could possible subject people to being easily found by those who they don’t want to be found by, stalkers. Most people do not have to worry about dealing with such an instance, but consumers should understand the risks it could potentially lead to.

But, that being said, it could also provide information to parents who want to know what their children are doing daily. As always, use good judgement when participating.