Physical locations in combination with the web are starting to hit it big, and is predicted to seriously take off this year. One example of an application that is rapidly heading that way is Foursquare.
Foursquare is a location-based social networking website, software for mobile devices, and game. Users “check-in” at venues using text messaging or a device specific application. They are then awarded points and sometimes “badges.”
In other words, every time I check in any public place (using my iPhone or Droid and the Foursquare app), I am participating in a game. The more times I check in, the more points and badges I can get. There are a few things that make this really interesting:
- Foursquare users can create tips for other Foursquare users that check in to a particular venue, making Foursquare also, at least partially, a recommendation engine;
- You can friend other users, much like Facebook, and get notifications of where your friends are in real time;
- If you check in to a location (on separate days) more than any other user, you become the “Mayor” of that location. In doing so, you may potentially unseat the current “Mayor.” This can lead to fierce competition.
What does this mean to me, Laura?
- Right now, the Foursquare app is only available to iPhone and Droid smartphone users. Palm Pre and Blackberry versions are quickly forthcoming (both are currently in beta testing). However, check-ins can also be done via any browser or by texting.
- Your library should keep an eye on what tips users are posting about your library. Don’t have your library get an account and check in daily, though–that’s not fair, since your library would always be Mayor of the library! The point is to encourage others to want that coveted title.
- Speaking of Mayors, this is where many businesses have gotten on the Foursquare cluetrain. Many businesses now offer discounts to the Mayor of the location; such as a coffee shop offering a free beverage to the Mayor of the place that day. Could a library do this? Absolutely! Your library could offer to erase the fines of the library’s Mayor. Or give them an extra amount of computer time. Anything you can think of that concretely rewards someone for frequenting your building. Make sure to advertise this. If people often take cell calls out to your library’s lobby, that would be an ideal place for a sign.
- There is a caveat–Foursquare does not count check-ins during what they call “normal work hours” (8am to 4pm, weekdays). However, the first time someone checks into a new location, they always get a five-point “discovery” bonus, regardless of the time or day.