My penchant for technology – especially new ways to connect and to share information – received a boost this fall.
For those willing to try it out, it just might change the way you interact with Cleveland. FourSquare is a location-based social networking program. It’s also a game. Users “check-in” at venues using their mobile device. They are then awarded points and sometimes “badges,” and add tips to venue listings for other users to see.
I first read about FourSquare last summer and immediately downloaded the iPhone application, but at the time it was only available in New York City. Sigh.
Fast forward to September; when a trip to NYC afforded me the opportunity to finally play FourSquare which was 1) fun and 2) informative. For example, I never would have found the Gutenberg Bible at the public library without a FourSquare tip.
As summarized in Wikipedia:
“Foursquare allows registered users to connect with friends and update their location. Points are awarded for “checking in” at venues. Users can choose to have their Twitter and/or their Facebook accounts updated when they check in. Users can also earn badges by checking in at locations. If a user has checked-in to a venue more than anyone else, on separate days, and they have a profile photo, they will be crowned “Mayor” of that venue, until someone else earns the title.”
Users have described the experience this way: if Twitter is about letting people know what you’re doing, FourSquare is about inviting friends to join you where you are– and if they can’t join you, leaving tips and suggestions for them and others in the future.
As an example, if I check into a restaurant in the Gordon Square Arts District I might [hypothetically] get a tip alerting me to ticket information for Cleveland Public Theatre or how to get free popcorn at the Capitol Theatre. Checking in to the theatre might yield a tip about the coffee shop and bakery next door. As I have used FourSquare, I have had friends follow-up with questions like “How was that restaurant? and “How did you like the show?”
This is where I think FourSquare gets exciting for nonprofits. Check out this Nonprofit Tech article on Five Simple (and Fun) Ways to Promote Nonprofits on FourSquare. Beth Kanter of Beth’s Blog has also posted about FourSquare for nonprofits, including potential uses in fundraising. Local businesses can be strong partners in working with neighborhood nonprofits in creative partnerships. As with all social media, successful organizations will be authentic, creative, and willing to take some risks.
Watch for much more on FourSquare in the near future. As reported in the New York Times (which has created its own FourSquare partnership for the Winter Olympics), FourSquare has entered into a deal with Bravo television, and according to another report, Zagat, Warner Bros., HBO, the History Channel and ExploreChicago have all been added to Foursquare’s media and entertainment mix.
GPS-enabled mobile devices have opened the door to a variety of location-based applications. Watch for programs such as Yelp!, Loopt, and Mobile Spinach to give FourSquare some competition. In the meantime, grab your phone and get ready to explore our city in a new and innovative way.