This month marked the 2nd annual celebration of Foursquare Day on April 16th. The day honors the social media platform Foursquare and its users. Hundreds of cities around the world held Foursquare Day events from Kennesaw, Ga. to Portland, Ore. to Istanbul, Turkey.
What is Foursquare? Foursquare is a location-based social networking platform for mobile devices. Users “check in” on their mobile phone at different places visited, from restaurants to parks, museums and retails stores. Foursquare rewards users for checking in with badges, points and mayorships. Users can choose to have their check-ins, mayorships and badges posted on their Twitter and/or Facebook accounts.
Foursquare also allows users the ability to leave tips about a venue. People can leave tips about their favorite dishes, things to do, and how to get a discount. Users can also track things that they have done by clicking “I’ve done this” next to a tip or can add something that sounds good to their to do list. Lists are collections of tips and venues created by users. Lists range from the Best Museums of New York City to Gone With the Wind. Each is created by a local expert, giving unique insight into the best places to visit in a city
To get users interested in the social media app and to keep them checking in (and thus providing more data to the recommendation engine), Foursquare has developed a unique set of “games.” The badges, points and mayorships are ways in which users can compete against friends. The mayor is the person who’s checked in the most times at a venue over the past 60 days.
Foursquare was started by Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai in the fall of 2008 in New York City. Foursquare was launched at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas in March 2009.
Foursquare has grown into a community of over 20 million people worldwide with over 2 billion check-ins. Half of Foursquare users are in the United States while the other 50 percent are international. Over 750,000 businesses are using the Merchant Plaftform.
So, how did April 16 become 4sqDay? Back in 2010, Tampa, Fla. optometrist Nate Bonilla-Warford realized that 4² = 16 and that April 16 would be a perfect day to celebrate Foursquare. He got together with some friends and started putting together a worldwide movement. Other cities quickly joined in and parties were held all over the world that first year. It’s grown since then to include cities in every corner of the globe.
Foursquare Day is a worldwide movement and the social app is being embraced around the world by political leaders and the media. All major media and news outlets currently have a Foursquare brand page. In August of 2011, President Barack Obama joined Foursquare and other world leaders including Prime Minister of Great Britian David Cameron and French President Nicholas Sarkozy followed suit. All of these leaders are using Foursquare to check-in to places they visit. The Republican candidates for President, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry joined Foursquare before the start of the first presidential caucus in Iowa. NBC News and Foursquare have teamed up to map out the 2012 presidential election. Visitors are able to see where candidates are making campaign stops in real-time, and where they’ve been throughout their entire election campaign.
In addition to checking-in at events, the gamification aspect of Foursquare is being used by politicians and the media in creative ways to engage the public in the political process. For instance, French President Nicholas Sarkozy recently rewarded campaign volunteers with cookies for checking into his campaign headquarters. Time Magazine will reward attendees to the respective Democratic and Republican National Conventions with a badge. NBC Politics recently established 3 badges for checking-in to Presidential campaign events.
In the same way that Foursquare makes buying a cup of coffee a competitive event, political operatives and the media are trying to harness the power of games to collect data and engage potential voters, readers and viewers. Foursquare and gamification can actually be a powerful tool for identifying and engaging the public. As the over 16,000 participants in Foursquare meetups around the world can attest, social media married with gamification is a powerful tool for mobilizing people and driving results for your organization.