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Foursquare Part II: Using Foursquare at Live Events (Or Not?)

Should we use Foursquare for MarketingCamp Silicon Valley? This is the question I was aiming to answer with this blog in October 2012. It chronicles my research journey and findings. Let’s go.


The criteria for a “yes” or “no” decision: the location-based solution had to be fun, low-cost, easy-to-implement, and achieve the goal of getting people more engaged onsite. If we could promote our sponsors as a “by-the-way”, that would be nice too. Can Foursquare connect people at the event? Is it a tool attendees would use to network and exchange information?

Side Note on Foursquare & B2B

Ever since writing my blog Foursquare Part I – The Basics on Points, Badges & Mayorships, I had been keeping my ears and eyes open to learn how to use Foursquare for B2B and events. At one point, I heard a radio report saying that Foursquare is losing traction. I could not find proof and definitely see a lot of people in my network posting regularly. But then again, I know lots of people who do social media and, hence, try many popular apps.

I do wonder why I keep using it, personally, as there is no reward for being the mayor of Downtown Yoga but somehow it is strangely satisfying every time I see that I am still the mayor. My excuse is that I do it as part of my job, for research. (My husband has asked me NOT to check-in at restaurants anymore.)  Personally, the most useful experience I have had with Foursquare so far has been when I checked in at SAP in Palo Alto and got a tip displayed: “SAP has a cycling club – click here to learn more”.  As I have learned since, once you set up a venue, you or others can leave tips. Of course, this would only reach people physically checking into your location.

Foursquare and Events

While my network that I quizzed on Twitter, FB and Linkedin, told me they have all heard about using Foursquare at events,  nobody had any  actual real-world user experience of checking into an event, only stores.  Here the summary of my findings on using Foursquare for events:

  • My friend Jim Van Dyke, said about Foursquare: “I’ve used it a lot…but since Facebook and LinkedIn added location-aware capabilities (and Groupon and others added merchant connections) I couldn’t see the value anymore.” When I asked him how to use it with Facebook for events he said: ” I think the one way would be to download a created app, specific to the event or hosting company. There could be some long term benefits if you want to do follow-on marketing too.” He also pointed out that having a signal/WIFI access is obviously key and not always a given. An app sounds great, we just don’t have the money.
  • A University is using Foursquare to unlock hard to get badges (think of encouraging 250 people + to check in at the same time). They hoped local businesses would give students showing the badge on their phone a discount. A second University is using it to get their students to attend the inauguration of their new president. People who check in can win one of 11 prizes.
  • My friends from @Sprinklr responded to one of my tweets asking for input: “ Sprinklr @nathomson This post doesn’t compare tools but gives some nice tips and ideas about incorporating foursquare at a trade show:“. It’s a good blog, focusing on how to use Foursquare instead of a scanner, to give out perks, like VIP tickets to a party, and for sweepstakes. There is an option to ask attendees to give you permission to email them when they check-in, which sounds useful for lead generation.
  • This is a very good article on how to get yourself set up on Foursquare for events and with ideas for basic activities.  To add a venue to your event, you have to search for the location and if it does not exist, scroll to the end of the search result page and add a new venue. Took me a while to figure it out. Not exactly user friendly. For a location-based service, should “add a venue” not be a button or in a drop down?
  • Also got a Tweet and email from @sniths who shared his knowledge around the future of location-based check-ins and the cloud. Tweet him if you want to learn more. #future

Here some general information on Foursquare for an event:

  • “You won’t have the ability to create a custom badge unless you are able to partner with the foursquare folk.”
  • “You can offer benefits to your attendees for checking in to various locations or functions at your event. Give your mayor a treat. Offer a private gathering for your users. All of these bonuses can be managed as ‘Tips” and can be easily setup.”
  • “Allow exhibitors to offer their own incentives for a visit to their booth. Give speakers a chance to encourage new audiences.”
  • “Set up a private landing page weeks in advance of your event and offer a tease towards some of the tips and incentives for their participation. “
  • Clean up and flag your venue  as “closed” after.

Use Cases from My Network

Syed Kashif Ali, who is on the MarketingCamp Social Media team shared this sensible idea: why not tag people on Facebook instead of using Foursquare? 

Next, my co-author Michael Procopio found a great example of Facebook being used for a live event.  Here his email to me:  “I just remembered that Adobe Echosign did donations for pictures uploaded to FB.

Here is the page – look for pictures of a person standing next to a robot. If the person has  location ON, in their device, that will come thru when posting  a pic as seen below:


You can also use a location-based posting as below with an event:

In the blank post dialog notice PLACE.  You will see in the post further down that I “checked in” to the 3rd Annual Aloha Coffee & Culture Fest. I did this on my laptop. If I were at the coffee fest I could have used my phone and GPS.”  How to check into an event is explained in this  Facebook article.

As Michael says above, when you are at the actual location, you can upload a picture to your own Facebook page from your phone and click on the little location symbol,  on the left to the camera symbol. When you hover over it it says “Where was this picture taken?”.  At the event site, you can simply upload the shot, type the event name and the event should pop up in your location listing. Select it and upload.   

The Solution for MarketingCamp Silicon Valley

From here, we pretty quickly decided to use Facebook instead of Foursquare for MarketingCamp Silicon Valley, as we didn’t need to drive any traffic to booths at the event and didn”t have the time to create an interesting app or badges – but rather wanted to create some fun engagement amongst the attendees.  Facebook is a lot more popular than Foursquare, so most people will be able to participate: FB with  900+ million vs. Foursquare with 25+ million users.

We planned acontest where attendees were asked to take a picture with MarketingHero Silicon Valley and upload it to Facebook with the hashtag #MCSV. They needed to have location services turned ON and choose MarketingCamp Silicon Valley as the event.  The best 5 pictures would win prizes.

According to this Facebook article this should post all the pictures on the event page.  (I was wondering, if you check-in from Pinterest, Instagram etc. can you still get your picture posted on the FB event page or only on your own page? Answer – it does not work).  We also allowed people to enter the contest via Twitter, using the hashtag #MCSV.

The Experiment

As I was going to the Sales & Marketing 2.0 Conference, I created a venue/event on Foursquare at the location. I wanted to test checking in from FB and Foursquare. to test if I could location-tag the event from Twitter and all other places to post the pictures to the Facebook event page that I also set up for testing. Read the results in my blog “Foursquare Part III”.

I’d love to hear your experience and tips from using Foursquare for events and B2B!


PS: Here a bonus event tip from Syed Kashif Ali:  “Check out “Tout.” It’s a brand new iPhone app that allows you to capture 15-second videos, and a lot of brands and celebrities have been using it for UGC (you can easily upload to both Twitter and Facebook). It’s free to download and maybe we could use it to quickly capture testimonials at MarketingCamp SV, how people feel about the event, their favorite sessions, etc. It’s something the volunteers can help with by quickly asking a speaker or attendee a question and much more affordable and seamless than lugging around video/audio equipment. Thought it was worth passing along.”

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