Timehop – One Year Ago Today, I Was…

Timehop – One Year Ago Today, I Was…

So much can change in a year, but it’s often hard to remember exactly what I was doing one year ago today. If only there was a way to travel back in time to see what I was working on, what I was interested in, who I was talking to, or even where I was going. Well, thanks to Timehop, I can now retrace my steps from one year ago, using my digital, social media footprint. Read more

Infographics; Turning Data into Information

Infographics; Turning Data into Information

Infographics seem to be all the rage these days, and for good reason. While charts and graphs attempt to communicate data, infographics actually turn data into information that’s often more interesting and easily digested by readers. And if the infographic is interactive, that’s when it really shines, keeping readers engaged and exploring for much longer periods of time. Read more

Foursquare Election Day

Foursquare Election Day

This morning while I was waiting in line to vote at my local polling station in Boston, I pulled out my phone to see if the voting booth was already established as a checkin point on foursquare. Low and behold – it was! What’s more, not only was I able to checkin, but I also received a badge, which then directed me to elections.foursquare.com.

If you haven’t heard the buzz yet, let me catch you up to speed. Foursquare recently partnered with Rock the Vote, Pew TrustsGoogle, Voting Information ProjectEngageTwitter Vote Report, and Jess3 to create a real-time, interactive map that keeps track of voting action around the country during today’s election. Users gain access to live data and stats like total number of checkins by state and nationwide, percentage of male versus female voters, and number of different venues checked into.

Even Alaska and Hawaii are getting in on the action with 11 and 8 checkins respectively. But New York is clearly in the front at 2287 checkins, with California in a close second at 1579 checkins – granted, New York did have a few hour lead due to the time difference. My vote counted amongst the other Massachusetts foursquare checkins, giving us 506 checkins so far (NOTE: all #’s pulled from around 2pm EST and subject to change).

Even those voting by absentee ballot and mail can participate by shouting “I Voted!” when they checkin somewhere. If you put the hashtag #IVoted in your tweets you’ll also get a special badge on Twitter!

According to foursquare’s blog, encouraging real-world action is a big part of their mission. With badges and other incentives, they try to encourage people to live better by eating healthy and working out for example. And now, with elections.foursquare.com, they’ve undertaken more of a civic duty, trying to incentivize people to get to the polls and vote! This seems like a worthwhile initiative and hopefully it’s having some impact on voter turnout.

Have you voted yet?

Foursquare – A Business Boost?

Foursquare – A Business Boost?

Last week, I looked at the Top 10 Reasons People Check-In to Foursquare; with reason #10 being “to boost business.” Delving deeper into the business benefits of location based services, you’ll see many companies are finding creative ways to use such services like foursquare. And, with today’s consumers getting information in new ways, it’s a smart business move to take advantage of applications and networks that combine online and offline elements.

Even though Forrester Research found that only 4% of U.S. online adults have ever used location-based applications such as foursquare, Gowalla, or Loopt, more and more seem to be signing on each day. In fact, foursquare just recently hit the one million daily check-in mark.

So, what are the key business uses and benefits for foursquare and other such location based services? Well, I’m glad you asked…

Connections –This is especially beneficial when traveling or attending conferences. Finding out what other companies or colleagues are in the area through foursquare check-ins can lead to impromptu meet-ups, which can prove fruitful for business.

Promotions – Through badges, points, and special deals, local businesses are using foursquare to attract new customers and reward loyal returning customers. Foursquare members are able to get discounts and perks by becoming the “mayor” or frequenting the same venue, thereby providing more incentive to go back over and over again.

Endorsements – Foursquare allows users to broadcast a statement along with their check-in. And, while some of the comments may be trivial, if we take into account the fact that 34% use social media to broadcast their thoughts, whether positive or negative, about a company, brand, or product (as noted  in my post a couple months ago, Social Media, the New Voice of Advertising), the business endorsement possibilities grow significantly. On top of that, the ability for foursquare members to broadcast these comments to Twitter and Facebook instantly enables their thoughts to reach the masses.

Publicity ­– With each check-in, businesses are increasing their publicity through word of mouth, or, rather, word of check-in. These check-ins are essentially recommendations by friends that reach the public with each new stop, especially when accompanied by a personal message. And nothing is more reliable or effective than a peer recommendation. While this may seem similar to “endorsements” listed above, the real trick with publicity comes by adding tips. Anyone can add a tip to a location on foursquare and the best part is that when people check-in to venues near your business, tips in the area show up like the one below from the Independent Film Channel.

Presence – One of the most unique uses I’ve heard of for businesses using location based services is that foursquare enables companies to establish a presence where they would otherwise have none. For instance, at trade shows where your company may not have a booth, by setting up a foursquare “booth,” people can still check-in and make their company a happening place to be. Maybe someone wears a sign around with the words, “Check-in here, you found (Company).” Voila, you now have established a presence at a trade show! Cheesy? Yes. Effective? Well, it has potential.

Active Engagement – Location based social networks and services provide another way for companies to engage with their fans and consumers, which is something people want, and even expect. Cone Research conducted a study showing 93% of social media users think companies should have a social media presence, 85% believe companies should also interact with its community via social media, and 56% of users feel both a stronger connection with and better served by companies when they can interact with them in a social media environment. If that isn’t enough reason to get your company actively involved in social networks like location based services then I don’t know what is.

I’m sure as the phenomenon continues to grow, more and more companies will discover ways to make use of location applications like foursquare. How have you seen businesses using location based social networks effectively?

Top 10 Reasons People Check-In to Foursquare

Top 10 Reasons People Check-In to Foursquare

Last week, I looked at where people are checking-in on location based social networks like foursquare, but now I want to know why people are checking-in. Is it the accumulation of points? The attainment of new badges? The hope that your friends actually care where you are and will want to come join you? …What is it that drives people to check-in on the popular location based social network, foursquare?

According to BitsyBot Labs, 17 people check in to foursquare every second. With such a popular response to the social media tool, so much so that Facebook is even planning to implement location based updates, the reasons have to be good. And so they are.

Here are my top ten reasons for why people check-in to location based social networks:

1. To meet up with friends – Just like the NBA finals example I gave in my post, The foursquare Phenomenon Explained, location based social networks can be great for finding your friends in the city or seeing whose nearby so you can meet up.

2. To see what trending places are nearby – Bored? Check foursquare to see what’s in the area – probably more fun things than you realize. Or… recently, I found myself waiting an hour for a table at a restaurant. My stomach was protesting the wait, but I was not familiar enough with the town to start walking towards a new destination, which, with my luck, would take more than an hour anyways. With a stroke of brilliance, I was able to turn to foursquare to see what else was in the area and pick out a restaurant just a block away that had no wait at all!

3. To look up an address – I knew I was at P.F. Chang’s for dinner, but when my friend driving to meet me got lost and asked for the address, I had no idea. Luckily, foursquare displays the street address at each venue so you know you’re checking-in to the right place. I was able to pull up the address for her so she could enter it into her GPS and wouldn’t leave me waiting for another 20 minutes.

4. To show off and let your friends know what an awesome time you’re having – It’s sad, but true. Aren’t half the updates you see on Facebook about how awesome people’s lives are anyways? It’s okay – you’re cool and you want people to know it. Just invite your friends along and they’ll still love you 😉

5. To check up on people – Whether you’re an anxious mother or a paranoid boyfriend, being able to know where people are is sometimes a comfort. Just don’t go too far down the stalker route!

6. To earn points and play the game – foursquare gives you points each time you check-in and more points if it’s a new venue. You can even check the leader board to see how you’re doing each week compared to your friends and try and earn more badges. While this may seem a bit dorky, it’s actually a good incentive to get out and explore new areas of the city.

7. To kill two birds with one stone… or even three – When you check-in on foursquare, you can enter your own personal message and then automatically update your Twitter and Facebook accounts simultaneously. Voila, now everyone knows you’re rocking out at the House of Blues!

8. To keep track of your travels – If you remember from my post last week, travel was fairly high up on the list of types of venues people check-in to. But, if you’re like me, trips are often too short and crammed with too much. Your foursquare check-in history is a nice way to keep track and remember where you were. I just got back from D.C. last week and, just like in elementary school, my mom asked what I did that day… for probably one of the first times in my life, I was able to recall every place I visited, much to her detail-starved delight.

9. To stall for time – When meeting friends out, there’s always the one friend who’s punctual while the rest are just “five to ten minutes away.” I think smartphones were invited for the punctual people in the world. Checking-in to foursquare gives you something to do while you wait for the friends who are actually ten to fifteen minutes away.

10. To boost business – Last, but not least, many businesses are finding creative ways to use social based networks. How? Check back next week to see!

How have you used foursquare or other location based social networks successfully?

A Deeper Look at the foursquare Phenomenon; Where People Check-In

A Deeper Look at the foursquare Phenomenon; Where People Check-In

Recently, I wrote about the popular location based social network, foursquare, explaining all about how it can be used, why it’s helpful, and how to protect your privacy. But, looking deeper, I wanted to examine where people want to check-in and why people want to broadcast where they are in the first place.

This past June, BitsyBot Labs examined a week of foursquare check-ins and divided the results into eight categories; arts and entertainment, shopping, food, travel, parks, education, nightlife, and other. Unsurprisingly, the two most popular check-in location categories were food and shopping, which maintained high levels throughout the entire week. After all, who doesn’t love to eat and buy things?

What was surprising, however, was that the number of nightlife check-ins was so low. Foursquare, like many social media networks, has been touted as a tool for younger generations, the bar-hopping crowd who stays out till all hours of the night. But, from the chart below where BitsyBot Labs compares the number of food check-ins to nightlife check-ins, you can see the stark difference.

I, for one, was very proud when I unlocked the Zagat Foodie badge for eating at five different Zagat rated restaurants! Way more proud than becoming the mayor of the local bar. I mean, let’s face it; 29 Newbury Street Restaurant is way cooler than The Harp.

Check back next week to see why people are bothering to check-in in the first place! What are the reasons behind this motivation?

The foursquare Phenomenon Explained

The foursquare Phenomenon Explained

As a recent foursquare addict member, I’ve been questioned by several friends and colleagues each time I pull out my phone to “check-in” when we arrive at a new location. It would seem that, even though foursquare is adding close to 100,000 members each week with over 1.7 million users, many people still don’t know about it.

foursquare is simply a location-based social network used on your cell phone. Similar to competitors like Brightkite, Loopt, Gowalla, and Google Latitude, it lets you update your friends on your whereabouts in the hope that they’ll be in and around the same area and can meet up. And who doesn’t love meeting up with friends? You also earn points and unlock badges for discovering new places, doing new things and meeting new people. While the points and badges don’t seem to mean much, each check-in gets you closer to being the mayor of a particular venue – and having check-ins and mayor status is actually worthwhile.

You become mayor when you have the most check-ins at a specific location. For example, I’m mayor of March Communications, Beacon Hill Athletic Club, and this little pizza place in the North End (yum!).  While the title of mayor might not seem like a big deal, certain businesses offer big bonuses. For instance, in Boston, if you’re the mayor of Gypsy Bar or The Liquor Store, you get to skip the line and skip the cover charge. And if you’re the mayor of Ben & Jerry’s, you get an extra scoop of ice cream!

There are other great deals for checking-in on foursquare, even if you’re not the mayor. Aquitaine in South Boston gives you a free glass of sparkling wine for every fourth check-in and Cheers gives you a half price appetizer whenever you check-in. For anyone who knows me – this pretty much explains why I do foursquare – I love finding great deals!

While this all sounds great, there have been some concerns raised about the privacy of foursquare. Whenever you check-in, you have the option to send it to Twitter and Facebook, which will look something like this. I suppose this presents the perfect opportunity for stalkers to track you down, especially if you’re religious about updating your whereabouts. There are some simple fixes to this though and general practices, which I abide by:

1. Only friend people on foursquare who are actually your friends

What’s the point of knowing where a stranger from Albuquerque is checking-in anyway? Isn’t the point to meet up with your friends in the same area as you? I suppose if you travel to Albuquerque often and are looking to make new friends, this might be acceptable…

2. Don’t update Twitter or Facebook with your location, just send your update to the foursquare app for your foursquare friends

By sending your update to Twitter, everyone can see where you are. So, before checking-in, just uncheck the little box that says “Send to Twitter” and “Send to Facebook,” but leave the box checked that says “Tell my friends.” This will keep your update just on the foursquare app.

3. Check-in to venues as you are leaving

This lets you still earn the points, badges, etc, while updating your friends on where you are, but keeps it safer for unwelcome trackers who may be hunting you down. Yikes! It might seem scary, but, let’s face it, we all have those scary ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, or crazy aunts we don’t want to run into!

4. Still wary? Don’t use it.

There are many issues being raised with location-based social networks, so, if it still creeps you out and the other three steps aren’t enough, just don’t use foursquare. Do things the old fashioned way and pick up the phone and call your friends to see where they are to meet up. Who knows, maybe you’ll bring phone calls back in style.

For those who still don’t see the point, I’ll admit, it took me a while to jump on the bandwagon, but, I’ve already found foursquare to be extremely useful. For example, when I was watching the tragic Celtics (yay) versus Lakers (boo) game 7 of the NBA Championships, I was at The Greatest Bar. But, when the bar stopped letting people in because they were already over capacity three hours before tip-off, I was able to check foursquare and see that some of my friends who didn’t make it had ventured to The Harp, where I was able to then meet up with them and watch the game. Voila, foursquare to the rescue!

So, if you’re a friend of mine, feel free to friend me on foursquare and maybe we can randomly meet up in the city next time you check-in!