Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Foursquare: the next Big Thing?

While reading through some blogs recently, there were a couple mentions of the new social networking site called Foursquare.  This was completely new to me, so I decided to do some investigating (very Nancy Drew of me, I know!) for those of us who need to know about these new things, and here is what I found out:

What is Foursquare?
  • It is a kind of game that you play using the GPS function on your phone. You download an application from their website for your specific cell phone. Currently, there is a specific app for the Iphone, Droid, Blackberry, and PalmPreo available, and other mobile phones can download devices from a mobile network.
  • The goal is to visit new places, such as restaurants, events, venues, businesses, etc., comment on the services you received there, and let your contacts on Foursquare know about it.
  • Its also a way to let your friends know where you are and what places you like to frequent, so they can meet you there or try it out for themselves.
  • You earn "points" for different places that you visit, and can earn "badges" for your profile, making the game into a fun competition.
  • You become the "mayor" for a place that you frequent more than anyone else, and if this place is a part of the Foursquare network, you can receive special offers and discounts for services provided there.
  • Check out this article, "Face-to-Face Socializing Starts with a Mobile Post" from the New York Times to learn more in depth about Foursquare. 
Who uses Foursquare?
  • Initially, Foursquare was popular with the younger urban crowd who liked to share their nightly whereabouts with friends and find the hottest bars and coolest coffee houses.
  • But now, as other businesses get in on the action, Foursquare is becoming popular with the young and old alike.  The younger generation, especially, with their cell phones attached at the hip, will most probably soon find Foursquare to be a great tool to share their location with their friends and meet up at a local place (maybe the library??).
  •  Currently, there are almost 500,000 users on Foursquare, and it is growing everyday.  Recently, Foursquare inked deals with Zagat, the publisher of restaurant guides, and the cable station Bravo

How can it benefit libraries?
  •  Having your business on Foursquare will probably soon be akin to having a Facebook page. As more and more people begin to create Foursquare accounts, more businesses will want to be able to connect with them using the Foursquare network.  
  • Your library can be signed up as a "place" to visit on Foursquare, and you can let your patrons know about fun programs, cool incentives, and other great things happening at your library!
  • Here is a great article, "Five Simple and Fun Ways to Promote Nonprofits on Foursquare" to get you started with some excellent tips.

As we all know, there is really no telling how all of these new social networking sites pan out in the long run.  But Foursquare seems like a simple yet fun game that people will love because of its heavy reliance on mobile devices, which are more ubiquitous than computers.  At least we know a little now, and are ready if Foursquare really takes off!