Get in the Game: Political Advocacy and Foursquare

New guest author! A fresh voice around here, at least. But Shana Glickfield‘s hardly new to the internet politics space, since she’s an experienced online communicator, one of the founding partners of The Beekeeper Group (“a new public affairs firm in Washington, DC, leading the industry towards toward a community-based, hive-driven approach”) and an all-around cool chick. Check out her thoughts on FourSquare for advocacy below:

Get in the Game With Foursquare!

Shana Glickfield

As a self-confessed Foursquare addict, I’ll admit I am a bit biased in writing this post. I can’t wait to see all of my favorite businesses, organizations and candidates get in on the craze. And I’m far from alone.

So just why is there so much excitement about this new tech tool? Unscientifically, I believe it’s because Foursquare cuts out a lot of the clutter on Twitter, driving us back to Twitter’s original question of “What are you doing?” But the Small Business Labs blog captured the real reason Foursquare has everyone talking:

“Foursquare is getting a lot of hype for several reasons. First, it sits at the intersection of a number of interesting technology trends: location-awareness, mobile computing, social media, social commerce, the real-time web and social games. This is an exciting mix for the geeks that hype these things. Foursquare is also easy to understand, is fun to use and has the potential to add value to both consumers and businesses.”

The tool has a lot to offer for marketing, communications, and advocacy. In addition to increasing your presence on the social web in general (never a bad thing!), you can also create low-cost rewards for activism, improve loyalty, and engage people at a moment at which you know they have a minute to spare. And while this technology is still at an early-adopter stage, it is growing rapidly and substantially. Check out the latest Foursquare stats:

  • Just hit one million users
  • Adding an average of 15,000 users per day
  • Over 1,000,000 badges have been awarded
  • Over 1.4 million venues with 1200 offering promotions
  • Over 15.5 million check-ins
  • Now registering 10+ check-ins per second

The holy grail of Foursquare from an organizational angle is to have a branded “badge” to manage, but this is not currently an advisable strategy (there are rumors of lengthy application delays and badges seeming to go exclusively to major corporate brands). But there is still plenty that organizations can do! Once you have an account set up, here are some tactics you can use:

Set Up and Manage a Venue!

If you haven’t already set up a venue for your organization, somebody else probably has created it (but you can still manage it!). The jury is still out on whether it’s fair game to check in at work, but just having it on the list will raise the visibility of your organization when people check in at places around you. Also, as the manager of the venue, you can set up “specials” and “promotions” — so get creative!

Set Up a Venue for Events!

Although your conferences, events, policy summits, lobby days, fly-ins, call-ins, rallies, and other all kinds of other activities will likely be taking place at an actual venue, you can just set up your own venue with the name of your event. For example, last Friday, many folks checked in at the Nonprofit 2.0 Conference rather than at SEIU (although they were our gracious hosts). The result was the Nonprofit 2.0 Conference was “trending” in the area for most of the day. And don’t forget to set your account preferences to share with Facebook and Twitter to expand visibility of check-ins even further.

You can also create your own virtual scavenger hunt or tour of places (real and virtual) related to your cause/issue/brand. Of course, you’ll need to have prize ready for those that complete the tasks! Just think of the social media mileage — blog posts to alert members about the challenge, updates on and by activists taking the challenge, announcing winners, and more!

Leave a Tip!

I love that every time I check in at any of the House of Representatives office buildings, I get a tip from D.C. Shadow Representative Mike Panetta (and fellow Partner at Beekeeper Group) reminding me to tell my Member of Congress to give DC a vote in Congress! It’s actually amazing how few advocacy tips have been left at places of actual policymaking. In fact, C-SPAN just launched their new Foursquare campaign around this feature.

You should also get creative about finding the constituents that you want to reach. Are you an animal rights organization? Leave a tip at pet stores reminding people to take action on your issue. You can even leave a website address (URL) with your call-to-action when you add it from the Foursquare website.

Remember, tips will pop up if left by someone with whom you are a Foursquare “friend.” Otherwise, they will be listed under the “tips” tab on the venue’s page.

Put a Foursquare Feed on Your Website!

Whether you want to show where your staff is checking in or who is checking in at your organization, you can customize a Foursquare feed right to your site. Foursquare will even give you the code to make the Foursquare widget.

Have a Swarm Badge Party!

One of the more challenging badges to get is the Swarm Badge, because it requires 50 people checking in at the same place and time. You can help your community to get this coveted badge by organizing a Swarm badge party around your cause or issue. And if you’re up to the challenge, make it a SuperSwarm (250 people!).

Data visualization!

Ready to take a deeper dive into Foursquare? Data visualization! What are your members up to? Where did people check in during your conference? Let Foursquare tell the story. Here is an example from BitsyBot, and if you haven’t seen the visualization of people checking in at SxSW Interactive this year, you will be amazed.

What’s Next?

Inspired yet? Good! Other geo-location tools like GoWalla, Loopt and Whrrl shouldn’t be discounted either, although I focused on Foursquare for this piece. For more info, check out a recent Mashable post by Geoff Livingston on Mashable for some examples of organizations embracing geo-social beyond Foursquare, titled “5 Cool Non-Profit Uses of Location-Based Tech.”

Thanks Shana! Lots! of! excitement! in! this! post! Can’t wait to see what you get fired-up about next, though I’m keeping an eye out for you and your worker-bees — not sure I’m quite ready to be assimilated into this hive-mind you’re creating.


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Shana Glickfield
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