With the midterm elections coming tomorrow, lots of news outlets will likely be launching their fanciest new toys and social media ideas to best pull in that coveted election night audience on the web. TBD’s no exception, though our election day experiments are based in off-site crowdsourcing to better inform our on-site coverage.
As we did with the Washington D.C. primary elections, we’re launching a Crowdmap to track voting problems across the District, Northern Virginia and parts of Maryland. We’re asking readers to report long lines, broken machines, ballot refusals, electioneering and such at the polls using email, Twitter hashtags or on-site reports. It worked pretty well in September, though this time I’m a bit worried about Crowdmap’s servers holding up. Right now as I post this, they’re struggling to load any of our maps.
While these check-ins and tips won’t be any kind of real measurement, it will give an interesting look at how many people on Foursquare are voting in local races and how those votes are leaning – if people use it. If enough people check in, they could earn a Swarm badge, at least.
Aside from all the fun marketing options, Foursquare can be very valuable for reporters, bloggers and other news organizations. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Find a source with ties to a specific location
When you go to a venue’s page on Foursquare, you can see who has recently checked in there and who is there the most often (aka The Mayor). Say a popular local eatery recently closed – find a frequent customer to interview for the story.
2. Find a source on the scene – fast
In addition to the venue page, you can use Twitter’s search to see publicly posted Foursquare check-ins in near real-time. Go to search.twitter.com and enter 4.sq AND your keyword to see who’s there right now.
3. See where your contacts are –and where they regularly go
Follow your beat contacts and sources on Foursquare and be opened up to their every move. When a Foursquare contact checks in, you can see where they are or have been under Friends.
4. Alert people as to news at a location
Check in where news is happening and leave a shout message as to what’s happening. You may also want to add a link to a story or your Twitter feed for those wanting more info. If you aren’t at the location, but want people there to see the news item, you can cheat (just this once!) and use m.foursquare.com to leave your shout. Note: People have to be friends with you to see this info.
5. Use your expertise (and drive traffic to your stuff) with tips
Leave a tip based on your knowledge of a venue, neighborhood, landmark or intersection. If you have it, leave a link to a blog post or story you’ve written about it for more info. (Note: Don’t just use any old post, try to make it actually useful).
The tips left behind at venues can be very useful for us as both patrons and profilers. They tell you what to order, what to avoid and what to expect when going there. It may or may not be great for reporting, but it helps when living (trust me).
7. See where the people are
On your Foursquare mobile app, you can see what locations near you have the most check-ins right now. Visiting a site like Social Great can also help you see these trends.
8. Show Where You Go
You can use a Foursquare account to show where you are or where you’ve been in your area, something that could really be of use to neighborhood reporters or bloggers in particular. You can display these on your blog or Facebook page using a variety of available apps.
21 Geolocation Case Studies: Great examples of how brands, media outlets and other sites have used Foursquare, Gowalla and other geolocation applications
Foursquare and other location-based services hold tremendous opportunity for media companies willing to get on board with an unconventional approach to interaction while it is still in its infancy. Following is a very basic overview of these services, including a glossary and tips for those who may not be familiar with these tools.
What are location-based services?
These are any programs or applications that take advantage of the mobile web and GPS capabilities of certain mobile phones to create an interaction based on a user’s location.
An Overview of What’s Out There
Foursquare is a popular location-based app that combines elements of Twitter, city guides and computer games. Users “check-in” to locations via a mobile app, alerting their friends as to their whereabouts and earning points, badges and special offers from local businesses.
Twitteradded geolocation to its tremendously popular service earlier this year – and in mid-June they unveiled Twitter Places, which has venues targeted by geolocation that users can append to tweets. One leg up on the others is a feature where users can explore recent tweets and other venues in their Places location.
Keep an eye on Twitter in this space – they have a lot more users than all the others combined, which could really push geolocation services further into the mainstream.
There’s also MyTown, which isn’t as widely used, but has a unique focus on the gaming aspect of these apps. MyTown has a touch of Sim City and Monopoly in its gameplay, allowing users to accumulate and spend virtual cash to buy and rent property.
Early forerunners to these apps are Loopt and Brightkite, which were mobile apps/sites for early adopters of smartphones to find one another. Problem was – there weren’t all that many of us to make it very interesting. Loopt has recently added new features to become more focused on recommendations. Brightkite has, for the most part, remained without a focus on gaming, existing for more of a bare-bones check-in to alert friends as to your location.
Glossary of Common Terms
Check-in: This is where you tell the app where you are. You can check-in from just about any kind of venue – hotels, restaurants, stores, attractions, intersections, etc.
Shout: A tweet-esque message accompanying a check-in on Foursquare (though Gowalla offers something similar). This can be sent out to Facebook and Twitter if you have it set up that way.
Tip: User-added advice that pops up when you check in to a venue on Foursquare. This is what makes Foursquare useful, so tip often!
To-do: Like a tip, but more of a note to oneself.
Badges or Pins: Certain patterns of check-ins can lead to a user earning these virtual rewards.
Trips: Gowalla offers a collection of venues one can check into on an organized tour of a city. You can create these yourself or take public trips.
Mayorships: Some businesses offer exclusive offers for the user who has checked in to their location the most on Foursquare – aka The Mayor.
Do’s and Don’ts of Location-Based Services
Don’t check in at home – not only is it cheating, but it can be dangerous. Don’t check it at someone else’s house without permission and really, don’t check in anywhere you think it might not be wise to share (like where your kids go to school, for instance).
Don’t broadcast your location to Twitter or Facebook unless it’s actually interesting. At least include a shout or message if you intend to share your location beyond the service.
Don’t cheat. Foursquare is a game people take seriously, so don’t check in as you’re walking/driving by a place or otherwise stack your stats.
Note: That said, you can go to m.foursquare.com to leave shouts if you aren’t on the scene but want to update users as to what’s happening at a location. This is good for breaking news when you aren’t on location.
Do know that it isn’t for everyone. If you don’t like people knowing where you are, don’t use it. If the only places you regularly go are your home and workplace, Foursquare isn’t made for you (and that’s OK).