A swarm hit downtown Thursday. Did you notice?

You didn’t, did you? That’s what I was afraid of. Sigh.

At the beginning of the evening Thursday, Paige Travis of AC Entertainment and Matt Ward, a stand-up comedian, checked in to Foursquare when they arrived at Latitude 35.

At the beginning of the evening Thursday, Paige Travis of AC Entertainment and Matt Ward, a stand-up comedian, checked in to Foursquare when they arrived at Latitude 35.

A swarm is a group of people (hopefully 50) trying to earn the “swarm” badge on the social networking site Foursquare. There was an attempt Thursday by a group on Market Square to earn that badge. But, doomed by confusion and perhaps a little impatience, it didn’t work out. We still had fun, though. And we’ll have to try to do it again in a little more organized fashion!

OK. A little background for those of you not quite into Foursquare yet. What is Foursquare? It is a social networking site that allows participants to “check in” using their smart phones whenever they arrive at a location. Other people you’ve approved to be your friend can see where you are, pretty much in real time. Several of us at Moxley Carmichael have been trying it out for about six months now in order to learn about it for our clients.

How could it be useful? The thought is that in the future, retailers are going to be even more interested in their customers’ shopping habits. Where have they been before they came to the retail location? Where did they go afterward? Foursquare is developing programs that will help retailers understand that.

Foursquare also can be used for promotions and contests. Whenever someone checks into a place more times than anyone else, they become the “mayor” of that location. I’m currently the mayor of 25 places. Many restaurants, of course, and even two liquor stores, I’m embarrassed to admit! (I have a co-worker who is the mayor of his church. That looks a lot better than the liquor stores, doesn’t it?)

Laura Bower and Ted Fisher ponder the rules as they check in to try to score the highly coveted and elusive swarm badge.

Laura Bower and Ted Fisher ponder the rules as they check in to try to score the highly coveted and elusive swarm badge.

Much like the Girl Scouts, participants can earn virtual “badges” for various achievements, like becoming a mayor. Or performing other activities. You can get a badge called “local” if you check in at the same place three times in a week. Another badge, “I’m on a boat,” is kind of self-explanatory. The badges are placed on the participant’s Foursquare homepage.

Which brings us to the “swarm” badge. To get the swarm badge, 50 people must check in at the same place at the same time. Sounds simple, right? But it’s difficult. Especially in a town like Knoxville where there aren’t that many folks on Foursquare yet. Another problem for us on Thursday: we were not all on the same page with the rules. Some thought it was OK to check in and leave. Others argued you have to stay in one place until everyone gets there. So we failed. But about 30 of us had a good time trying to figure it out.

I still think of Foursquare as being “under development.” Every now and then they add a new feature and we think more and more of those features in the future will be aimed at helping retailers attract customers. On our other blog, The New Streak, we’ve written about some of those developments. Click here or here to link to them.

My ever-patient husband, Alan Carmichael, right, is not on Foursquare yet, but he agreed to come along. Here he chats with Scott Bird of Moxley Carmichael, who is on Foursquare.

My ever-patient husband, Alan Carmichael, right, is not on Foursquare yet, but he agreed to come along. Here he chats with Scott Bird of Moxley Carmichael, who is on Foursquare.

Also, here is a short video about how a restaurant in Milwaukee recently used the swarm badge to attract customers. Click here for that.

OK. If you are ready, jump on Foursquare. It is free and it is fun. One word of advice, though: Be more selective about whom you allow to “friend” you on Foursquare than you may be on Twitter or Facebook. On Foursquare, I only let people I actually know IRL (in real life) be my friend. That’s because all your friends can see on their smart phones where all their other friends are. Which means they can also see where they are not – like when they aren’t at home. So use your head. But give it a try.

Call us at Moxley Carmichael if you’d like us to share what we’ve learned about Foursquare — or other social media platforms. Or give us a call if you have any ideas you’d like to share with us. That’s the fun of social media: we all are learning together. Beware of anyone who claims to be an expert in this very new field. Very few really are. But there is genuine value in learning by doing. That’s why we are trying it out.

(By the way, although we didn’t earn the swarm badge on Thursday, several folks earned a badge called “crunked.” That happens if you check in to four or more locations in one evening. So it wasn’t a total waste!)

From left: Ken Mayes, Neil McCormick and Nicole Van Scoten discuss the swarm badge regulations while checking in at Latitude 35.

From left: Ken Mayes, Neil McCormick and Nicole Van Scoten discuss the swarm badge regulations while checking in at Latitude 35.

Dusk was falling on Market Square as we left Latitude 35 and headed to La Costa for dinner.

Dusk was falling on Market Square as we left Latitude 35 and headed to La Costa for dinner.

We found a swarm badge "after party" at the Preservation Pub.

We found a swarm badge "after party" at the Preservation Pub.

From left: Jeremy Floyd, Glenneth Reed and Paige Travis at Preservation Pub.

From left: Jeremy Floyd, Glenneth Reed and Paige Travis at Preservation Pub.

Julie Hinkle and Page Broadwater, also at Pres Pub

Julie Hinkle and Page Broadwater, also at Pres Pub

A big after party also occurred at Oodles Uncorked. All these folks had been to the Foursquare swarm badge attempt earlier.

A big after party also occurred at Oodles Uncorked. All these folks had been to the Foursquare swarm badge attempt earlier.

It was getting pretty late, so we decided to call it a night.

It was getting pretty late, so we decided to call it a night.

I wasn't actually "crunked" when I took this picture. I was trying to take it while walking. But it turned out pretty funny.

I wasn't actually "crunked" when I took this picture. I was trying to take it while walking. But it turned out pretty funny.

Home sweet downtown home! G'night, everybody!

Home sweet downtown home! G'night, everybody!

The elusive Swarm badge

The elusive Swarm badge

Filed under: Downtown, Events, Knoxville, New media. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to A swarm hit downtown Thursday. Did you notice?

  1. Ellen Robinson, on July 23rd, 2010 at 4:59 pm said:

    Love the badge!

  2. Cynthia Moxley, on July 23rd, 2010 at 5:03 pm said:

    Ellen: You need one!

  3. Hayduke, on July 23rd, 2010 at 5:41 pm said:

    I’ve been worried for a while that retailers aren’t able to collect enough information about my habits. Foursquare looks like the answer. “Mayor of the utility building under Hill Ave viaduct” here I come!

  4. Jeremy Floyd, on July 23rd, 2010 at 9:14 pm said:

    We will get the elusive swarm badge. Next time!

  5. Charley Sexton, on July 24th, 2010 at 8:28 am said:

    I think we’ll see some swarm badges pop up when it’s football time in Tennessee!!!

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  7. Julie Hinkle, on July 24th, 2010 at 9:22 am said:

    Great write-up. Even though we didn’t obtain the elusive “Swarm Badge”, we certainly succeeded at having a good time!

  8. Laura Bower, on July 24th, 2010 at 9:40 am said:

    We came. We swarmed. We crunked.

  9. Ken Mayes, on July 24th, 2010 at 11:00 am said:

    Good stuff. It was good to finally meet a couple of people IRL, that I’d only tweeted with in the past. Looking forward to the next attempt. BRING ON THE SWARM!

  10. Bob, on July 24th, 2010 at 12:36 pm said:

    These days I mostly notice people in photos looking at phones – talking to people (while looking at phones) about phones and the marvelous things you can do with a phone.
    Does this make them phonies?

    It makes me yearn for cigarettes and highballs – the props in many a polaroid.

  11. em, on July 26th, 2010 at 12:16 pm said:

    I have been playing around with Foursquare, and I am glad to see other Knoxvillians trying it out. I’m also glad you addressed the safety issues in your write-up. That’s my biggest concern when it comes to Foursquare. While I only have two “friends” on Foursquare (Paige is one of the two), I usually forget to uncheck the box that sends updates to my twitter account. Foursquare just seems a little bit risky when it comes to personal safety and security. Interesting to hear another take on it.

    I also wondered if businesses received posts pertaining to them. I was at the Uncle Julio’s in Boca Raton this weekend and 4Sq’d about how terrible the service was. As we were leaving, the manager came to our table with a free dessert. I wondered if that was a coincidence or not, or if my friends and I had simply given enough non verbal cues of displeasure to our server.

    Anyway, it’s a neat little tool but I’m not sure it’s for me. I travel a lot so it’s fun to have a record of where I’ve been, but I’m not sure how many other people I need/want to know where I am.

  12. Pingback: New Streak » Blog Archive » I think I’m being followed…

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