how to:How to Spur Actions with the Geo-Local Mobile App Foursquare
Foursquare is an application for your phone that enables you to “check in” to different locations. With Foursquare, you can let your friends know where you are and find out where they are. You can also earn points, badges, and prizes for different types of check-ins.
While there have been few instances of Foursquare being used by digital activists so far, the application has potential for organizing and coordinating movements.
In June, Foursquare users started to check in to Tianamen Square on the 21st anniversary of the massacre there. Chinese officials quickly moved to block the application, apparently moved to do so after seeing users leaving “sensitive comments” as “tips” on the check-in page for the location.
Here are some other ideas for using Foursquare to organize your supporters:
- Rally people to check in to the same location when holding an event or demonstration.
- Reconnect during an event or crisis. Find people you have lost in the fray by checking in to the same location.
- Directly connect with others who have checked in to the same location.
- When people check into your protest or other venue related to your campaign, their friends will find out about it, about your cause, and are more likely to also get involved (especially if you contact them, too!)
- If you create a Foursquare page for your campaign, you can engage with people who might not otherwise heard about your campaign!
First, take some time to become familiar with using Foursquare and build up a list of friends on the app. You will need to create a Foursquare account and download the application to your phone. You can import friends from your e-mail account, Twitter friends, or Facebook profile.
Foursquare works on iPhone, Blackberry, Android, and Palm. Third-party developers have also made apps to support Foursquare on Windows Mobile, Palm Pre, Nokia Symbian, and the iPad.
If you don’t have one of these smartphones, you can use Foursquare’s mobile website to check in or via SMS. Checking in by text message is only available in the U.S.
Think about the people around you—do they have access to smartphones and the internet? Since Foursquare is primarily built for smartphones, and if you think you may have a limited number of supporters who have access to smartphones and the web, you may want to consider a different organizing tactic.
On the Foursquare website, log in to your account to manage your friends and account settings. Decide how public or private you want your Foursquare profile to be. You can tell your friends where you are just within the application or you can share your location check-ins on your Twitter and Facebook feeds.
Think about how much you want other people to know. Do you want other people to know exactly where you are? Consider security concerns you may have about revealing your location to others.
Start checking in. Foursquare uses your phone’s GPS to find your location and list places nearby. It will list all types of venues including restaurants, bars, stores, and public places like parks. Just click on the “Check In” button—a list of places nearby will come up. If you do not see your location, you can search for it. After you check-in, you will be listed under “Who’s here” along with other Foursquare users who have checked in at that location.
Provide commentary when you check in. Similar to a tweet, you can share a brief update/details when you check in to a location. This could help with providing accurate and timely information about what is happening on the ground, including logistics and messaging.
Now you are ready to begin organizing using Foursquare. Think about your goals and the people who will be involved. Will they have access to Foursquare? Is there good mobile network coverage at the event location? Why do you want supporters/attendees to use Foursquare—to gain publicity for your event? To share details with other people? To create a swarm? How exactly will using this tool help you to acheive your short term goals?
When you hold any kind of event or action, publicize the fact that you want attendees/supporters to check in on Foursquare once they arrive at the location and share this action with their friends. Do this both ahead of time and at the event. You should use Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms to get the word out, then when enough people check-in, their friends will see their check-ins, will as a result find out about them and have more incentive to get involved or at least spark a discussion.
If you can claim a venue on Foursqaure (prove you own it) then you can launch specials there, so that if someone checks-in they get certain badge related to your issue (another great way to make sure their friends see that they're involved in your campaign) and action-oriented tips from you (walk 5 blocks to the left to meet our campaign organizers!)
You can use the platform - again, assuming there is a critical mass of your audience on it - to spread the word even before your first offline event. Create a page for your campaign or issue. This is like creating a venue without the need for a physical location. You can also add less action oriented, but insidery, tips -when they check into relevant spots just to keep them engaged. As examples, The History Channel leaves factoids all over the world that provide context as you travel (and check-in). Likewise, Zagat leaves restaurant tips for dishes and cocktails.
When people check into a venue you've claimed you can access information about them - if you have a venue, then, make sure to record this information and maximize it. Even if you don't, you can see who checked in to an venue you created (for example if you created a location for a rally) and then reach out to those people on Foursquare, Facebook and Twitter. Make a list for them on those networks (people who attended our protest!) and get back in touch with them next time your organizing an event.
Have tips that we should add? Let us know in the comments! Also check out our blog post on organizing with Foursquare.