Foursquare: beyond the playground

This blog is based on the Miss Tipshare column in the July/August 2010 edition of AHCMC’s News & Views newsletter.
In third grade, foursquare was the game on the playground. It got so intense that to reduce the number of recess arguments (and lost playtime), the teachers posted official rules for play. Yep, it was that serious.
Now, years later, it’s back — in the form of my latest tech obsession! Admittedly, I’m a little late to this party. I’ve been seeing foursquare updates in my Twitter feed for months now, thinking that it was a little too invasive and crazy. However, on Mashable’s Social Media Day (June 30), I decided to celebrate by joining!
Learn about what foursquare is and how AHCMC is using it after the jump.

What is foursquare?
Foursquare is a free location-based web and mobile application. It uses geolocation to let its users “check-in” to venues (like restaurants, stores, movie theaters — just about anywhere), see who else has been there recently, read “tips” from past visitors and see what their friends are doing. Users also accumulate points and “unlock badges.” For example, I visited three Apple stores and unlocked the Jobs badge (as in Steve Jobs).  And if you visit a venue more than anyone else has in the past 60 days, you are crowned the “Mayor” of that venue.

foursquare-nearby foursquare-tips
My Favorites (nearby venues I’ve checked in at before), other nearby venues and tips written by others about nearby venues. (If I ever visit Taste of Morocco, I will, as John H. recommends, try the Royal Couscous!)

While points and badges don’t translate into real-life benefits, businesses are starting to see the value of foursquare. With this application, it’s so easy to track customer loyalty that many restaurants and bars are offering specials to the Mayor of their venue, or are offering discounts to foursquare users.
But what about privacy?
Friends already using it assured me that I didn’t have to share my location with anyone if I didn’t want to — I could check-in at a venue privately and be seen as checking in “off the grid.” Fair enough!

The main feed of friends’ activities — and someone checked in “off the grid”

How is AHCMC using it?
We’re in the beginning stages of using foursquare and other hyperlocal mobile apps to promote the arts and humanities in Montgomery County, particularly public art. In fact, just visit Rockville Library, open your foursquare app and see what tips have been written about the nearby venues. You’ll see a tip I wrote: “Check out the gorgeous public art installation on the bottom floor! “Connections” by Heidi Lippman, terrazzo, 2006. More info at” My dream? Creating a Do & Go badge for visitors to Montgomery County arts and humanities venues to unlock!

Apps like foursquare were built so people could explore their cities. Why don’t we as a cultural community take that beyond food and drinks and make it easier for people to get their arts and culture fix too?

What do you think? How do you think your organization can use foursquare to reach and expand your audience? I’d love to hear your thoughts!