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Beyond the Big Three: Foursquare

  
  
  
This is the 11th in a 12-part series called “Beyond The Big Three,” which highlights social networking sites other than Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. There are tons of other social media outposts on the Web, and they’re great places for associations to curate content. The previous 10 installments can be found here. Stay tuned.

You may have heard about Foursquare in recent weeks or months; it’s been called the “Twitter of 2010” by some. Foursquare combines two important trends in the social web: location and mobile technology. But if you haven't heard about it, don't worry! It's generally more popular in larger cities right now, but it's expanding quickly.



Essentially, Foursquare is an application that enables "checking in" at various locations. The application uses GPS to identify where you are and will give a list of nearby places from which to choose, but you can always add a place if it’s not available.

According to its Help page, When you tell foursquare where you are, that's called "checking-in". You can check-in from parks, bars, museums, restaurants...  really anywhere. Foursquare then will let your friends know where to find you.

The site aims to help you find friends and acquaintances in your city. There are apps available for smartphones such as iPhone, BlackBerry, Palm Pre and Android, but if you don’t own one of those phones, you can check in using a basic text message - attach your phone number to your account and text your check-ins to 50500.

Besides checking in and updating your location, there are few other parts of Foursquare.

The Mayor

If you check into a certain location more than anyone else, Foursquare will crown you “The Mayor.” Many bars and cafes in bigger cities (such as New York) sometimes give the current mayor some perks, such as a discount or a free coffee. But if someone comes along behind you who has checked in more often, they can “steal” the title.

Badges

According to Foursquare, Badges are little rewards you earn for doing checking-into interesting places. For example, staying out late on a school night or frequenting too many karaoke bars. Foursquare says many badges are tagged to venues. For example, people could tag a bar “karaoke,” “pool table,” etc…

Points

Foursquare awards points for pretty much every check-in. You’ll get points the first time you check in at a certain location and when you add a new venue. Basically, the more you experience, the more points you’ll get. Foursquare says it is still figuring out what to do with the points earned. In December, though, the company donated $0.04 to charity for every point earned.

Since Foursquare updates are tied to locations, when you click on someone's update, you're brought to a page that looks like this:


Granted, Foursquare is more popular in bigger cities such as New York, Washington DC and San Francisco, but let’s think about the implications for associations.

What if your organization could use Foursquare for its annual meeting or conference? I know someone else in the association world has blogged about this before, and I’ve searched through archives and found nothing. So if this was your idea, please let me know!

However, thinking back to ASAE and The Center’s Annual Meeting, I think a Foursquare-type application would have been immensely useful. (The fact that the meeting was in Toronto made using our cell phones a little more difficult, but I digress.) The convention center was so huge and after-hours, people were spread out at tons of different restaurants and bars. Using location-based technology might have allowed us to meet even more people!

Foursquare can be integrated with both Facebook and Twitter, so your status updates there can also be read as check-ins. Additionally, check out this blog post (from yesterday!): Five Simple (and Fun) Ways to Promote Nonprofits on Foursquare.

Edit: This post from Mashable just showed up in my Google Reader: How Nonprofits and Activists Can Leverage Location-Based Services. Great stuff here!

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