Foursquare: What Does It Really Mean To Your University?

For any of you that are in my social network of friends on Facebook or Twitter, you might have noticed that I have been rather active on Foursquare lately.  Ok, that is a real understatement, I’m a complete addict.  I’ve gone so far as creating a whole website with all the hard to find Foursquare badge information.

What Is Foursquare?

Using a smart phone (currently supports iPhones, Blackberries and Android smart phones) with GPS you “check-in” to your current location and share this with your friends.  Foursquare at its best is a service to share what you are doing and leave tips about locations you have visited.  Once you have visited a certain location more times than anyone else in a set amount of time (the last two months), you can become the “mayor” of that location.

Deep down Foursquare is a deceptively addicting game of collecting badges and mayorships.  Because of this, it makes the game just so darn fun!  We love Twitter because it’s so simple and it’s easy to type 140 characters about something.  Well Foursquare is a whole lot easier than that; you simply click a few buttons and it tells your friends exactly where you are.

Who doesn’t like to be “the mayor” of something?  There is somewhere that everyone visits religiously so why not be known as the mayor of this location?  Badges are acquired by visiting specific locations that have been tagged as a certain type of place or by accomplishing something, such as visiting 50 unique locations.  The problem with the badges is it’s not always obvious how to get them, hence why I created a website to help with that.  A lot of what you are doing on the network isn’t instantly obvious, but it doesn’t need to be unless you are obsessed with the badges.

How I Got Pulled In.

It wasn’t even six weeks ago that I was reading Tim Nekritz’s blog as he talked about geotagging and some of the players, and I left the following comment:

Foursquare has become a big thing here in the office in Boston. Personally I just don’t really get it, and have been thinking about its real market value. Good to read your thoughts here.

I could go back a little over two years ago and find comments where I said the exact same thing about Twitter!  I do recommend you checking out Tim’s four-part series about geotagging services including Foursquare, Gowalla and Yelp.  I also recommend the recent Chronicle article covering geotagging servicesWill Your College Be Covered in Virtual Graffiti?

I already had a Foursquare account at the time to protect my own user name, although I had yet to do anything with it.  Then about a month ago we filmed a fun viral video about the service.  My feeling was if I’m going to be in this video about Foursquare than I kind of need to have a presence on the network. FYI I’m the bad guy that something bad happens too near the end of the video. That makes you want to watch it now right?

What I started to notice is how easy it is to click a few buttons when I’m walking into a location and share with my friends that I’m there.  Also, because so many other people at work also use it, it actually has real meaning around me.

What Does Foursquare Mean For Higher Education?

Well the first thing to know about Foursquare is it’s really growing and picking up momentum.  Just last week Foursquare crossed one million users.  It took Foursquare just over a year to hit this milestone, one which took Twitter roughly twice as long to reach.  It also only took Twitter four years to hit one hundred million users!  Considering that Foursquare is already a year ahead of schedule it’s hard to bet against them.  Most importantly Foursquare ALREADY has a business module and quite a good one at that.  Restaurants and other locations have started running specials to customers, and businesses have started issuing special badges.  Yes, even higher education has entered the arena with Harvard University having a special badge you can acquire by checking into so many locations around campus.

If anything, as higher education marketers, you should be acquiring your own personal account and see what locations around your campus have already been tagged and who the mayors are.  I know that it’s something else to monitor, but do you trust your students tagging and classifying locations around your campus?  I promise you that sooner or later they will start.

The one thing I will say is that living in Boston I’ve gotten a little used to living in the bloody cutting edge.  The schools around here are pretty well tagged, maybe Jess/Web Managercan tell us stories about what they are doing for Suffolk/Emerson on this network?  If your school isn’t in a major city then you still have time to get onto these things.  My simple advice is you should setup a personal account and start checking in and tagging locations for all the major buildings around your campus. In a way, if you leave tips it can be like a guided campus tour.

I’ve been thinking about what angle to use for this article for about a month now and this is how it came out.  So hopefully some more of you have been introduced to this new network.  Hey, if CNN is already calling Foursquare the next Twitter you might as well get ahead of the curve.

This post was written by:

Founder - who has written 226 posts on .eduGuru

Founderis currently the Customer in Residence at HubSpot, a Co-Founder at nuCloud and  formerly the webmaster at Wofford College. Founderis an active contributor in the social media spectrum. Although his background is technical, he claims to know a thing or two about marketing, but mostly that revolves around SEO, analytics, blogging, and social media. He has spoken at multiple national conferences and done countless webinars on topics ranging from e-mail marketing to social media and Web analytics. He's definitely a fairly nice guy.

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15 Responses to “Foursquare: What Does It Really Mean To Your University?”

  1. Says:

    Hi Kyle! For an urban campus like Oswego, there’s still a big challenge to setting up Foursquare locations since it requires street addresses unless you really know how to gin the system. My office, for example, Foursquare insists on locating above a dance club of questionable repute downtown. (On a related note, everyone wants to visit my office now.) The only location really available is our main entrance, and that’s not terribly exciting. I’ve done a tour via Gowalla (more info on a future blog post) but the user base isn’t there yet, so that’s more an exercise than anything else.

    That said, use of Foursquare is indeed hotcaking by leaps and bounds. For cities and urban universities, it’s a huge opportunity. If Foursquare figures out a way to fully integrate its GPS function, it could be the next 800-pound gorilla. But I continue to think a killer app that ties together the strengths of Foursquare, Gowalla and Yelp could be the real game-changer. Oh, and thanks for the blog shoutouts!

    • Says:

      @Tim - As long as you are the “Mayor” of a location you can move the exact pin location to where it needs to be. I’ve gotten a little OCD with this on certain locations.

  2. Says:

    Um sorry, that should read “… for a *rural* campus like Oswego …” Ugh. Monday morning.

  3. Says:

    Well, I guess this means I’m once again outed in functionality I didnt want to adopt. LOL First the iPhone and now Foursquare. I’m considering somethings but still struggle with the issue of safety and privacy for students, even though it is an opt in system.

  4. Says:

    My big problem is the fact that alot of venues for Belmont have already been created by users. These venues were created using GPS, which of course isn’t very accurate all the time. Some building are blocks away from where they are supposed to be. How in the world are you supposed to fix those things?

    • Says:

      Short answer is become the mayor then you have control of editing the location and all.

      Bigger answer is contact someone who has super user access and get them to clean things up. How do you find super users… well that is a whole other question that is covered in a layer of haze…

  5. Says:

    I searched for something completely different, but found your webpage! And have to say thank you. Nice read. .

  6. Says:

    My big problem is the fact that alot of venues for Belmont have already been created by users. These venues were created using GPS, which of course isn’t very accurate all the time. Some building are blocks away from where they are supposed to be. How in the world are you supposed to fix those things?

  7. Says:

    Hi Kyle, Thanks for the great post! Who at the college is typically the “person in charge of managing” the venue? Harvard’s foursquare page is awesome. Do you know of other colleges on it?

    • Says:

      @Khristine - I would say that the person who handles the facebook/twitter should also be the one over Foursquare. It could also be the team that handles campus tours right? As if you set it up right it can be sort of like a self directed campus tour… more details on that to come later. As for other schools Harvard is the only one w/ an “official” presence and a badge.

      • Says:

        Thanks Kyle, that’s kinda what I thought. Looking forward to the “more details” :)

  8. Says:

    Started 4squaring at our University a couple months ago, it is catching on slowly but we will likely be using it for the next recruitment season, mayorship and badge-wise discounts hopefully.

    • Says:

      If you don’t mind sharing, what’s the foursquare link?

  9. Says:

    Well even though our University as a whole isn’t going to jump on board and launch a Foursquare presence, I think I am going for a smaller program I run called Semester in Washington Journalism Program. This is one of those things where a school could really get some great feedback from students on hot locations and events and I wonder how long it will be until institutions start seeing this. Better to try and control a message now then wait and see what students do with social media on their own right?

    Great post- Im working on a few of my own for TechAcademy at and will definitely be linking to this article. Thanks for the thoughts Founderand hopefully I’ll see you at EduWeb- I’m presenting this year!

  10. Says:

    Nice post. Your Blog is bookmarked. Regards