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