Foursquare Communities – Enhancing the User Experience

Over the last week I have noticed several new “Foursquare Communities” popping up around the globe. This. Is. Awesome. What is a Foursquare Community you ask? Well…you’re visiting one right now. Taking a first pass at compiling a definition, I would define a Foursquare Community as a network of individuals designated by a geographic area (city, state, country, region, etc) designed to facilitate interaction, share information, and plan events catered to the common interest of using and promoting the Foursquare application. Keep in mind here that I am defining the Foursquare Community as a different type of entity than what would fall into a “Foursquare Resource” category (an example of this type would be “About Foursquare”).

What is the benefit of having a Foursquare Community?

  • User Adoption – The more information you are able to share with the members of the community, the more knowledge they have to pass on to others who are not part of the community and subsequently help in growing the community’s user base. As the user base in an area builds, businesses begin to realize the potential impact it can have and the usefulness of catering to this community as a viable marketing channel.
  • Promotion – Creating a centralized knowledge pool of individuals using the Foursquare application allows for a concentrated audience to target beneficial information about specials/deals that businesses create within the scope of the community area. This not only favors businesses who have decided to run a promotion, but also helps inform community members about specials they might otherwise never know about. Members then disseminate these specials to their own social pools which, in turn, amplify the marketing reach for the business. More deals equate to more users and more users correlate to more businesses offering specials. A Foursquare Community presence can help speed the adoption of both users and specials, which builds the overall base of the area faster than another area without a network.
  • Knowledge Base & Support – The very nature of a localized branch, a Foursquare Community has a better grasp on the environment in their own specific geographic areas than an over-arching corporate entity. Communities also create a virtual volunteer workforce for Foursquare that is instrumental in keeping venues edited properly and duplicates eliminated. Because it is a de-centralized resource, the Community is much more adept at responding to edit/merge (and even help) requests faster and with more accuracy than a global corporate support center. Because of this support functionality, it is critical that the Community Manager have (or have at his/her disposal) others with Super User Access above Level 1 in order to be the most efficient at assisting in this capacity. The Community itself and the Community Manager also become the knowledge experts for their areas and can help disseminate that learned skill to others. Those resources can then become their own Foursquare brand champions who will encourage increased participation from both the individual and business levels. Again, increasing adoption from both a business and user front adds more fuel to boost the Foursquare growth curve at a faster rate than it would organically.
  • Event Planning – Because of the knowledge base and direct access to Foursquare users in a community, the Community can go beyond helping to just promote deals and can begin to plan its own events and social get-togethers. After all, Foursquare is a tool that bridges the digital world with the real world so creating your own networking events and parties for the Community is a natural extension of this application beyond just check-ins and promos.

What do you need to create your own Foursquare Community?

  • Time – Sounds simple right? Sure it does, but this is probably the single most important thing you should consider before attempting to build a community of any kind. Do you have the time to properly invest into growing and managing a user community? The interest is already there if you are considering it, but you need to take into account this element as it is critical to the success of both getting a community up and running and in maintaining it.
  • Tools – You need to have an understanding of the application itself from both a functional and benefit standpoint. Basically, have you been using the tool long enough to have a firm foundation of why it exists and what you can do to build upon that at a grassroots level. Foursquare is a little higher up the totem pole of social media usage so this should go without saying, but it needs to be included all the same: you need to have working knowledge of other digital mediums to build and promote the community which can exist in a variety of forms. The most commonly used digital communication method around the world in other Foursquare Communities is Twitter and/or Facebook. It is not over-stepping the importance of supporting social media platforms to say that Twitter is a requirement with Facebook ranking in second. However, you should be able to build a successful community without second-ranking Facebook. Having a web resource (such as a blog or forum) is not critical, but adds a very beneficial additional component to your community. Not everything can be communicated in Twitter’s 140 characters, so having a blog/forum type of presence is critical for a more well balanced and successful community. You have a wide variety of ways to do this which can include, but are not limited to a WordPress or other Blog platform site, Tumblr account, etc. Do what you think is best with this component while keeping in mind not only your skill level at using these various other mediums, but also your time commitment in their construction and ongoing maintenance.
  • Nomenclature – What do you name your new Foursquare Community? In the early days (shortly before and following Foursquare Day) community names took a variety of forms, but would always share a common theme of the geographic area represented and some variation of Foursquare. Over time, they have begun to converge with the use of “4Sq” followed by a geographic designation. Most of this was fueled by the desire to keep the Foursquare Community name as short and descriptive as possible for use on Twitter where you are constrained within a maximum number of characters you can use in your messaging. Rather than waste precious space with a full name approach like “@FoursquareAtlanta”, a more efficient abbreviated name of “@4SqATL” was used instead.  Some communites that spawned during the 4SqDay incorporated “4SqDay” into their names which was fine if the intent was to use the community for only planning that day, but doesn’t make as much sense for year round use.  You certainly have complete freedom to name your community what you want, but seeing a list of all the communities around the world under a consistent style shows a unified sense of purpose with these Foursquare Communities and adds both validity and power to the grassroots movement.

There is no right wrong or way to organize and build your Foursquare Community. You simply need to do what works for your respective community and let it shape itself over time through a continuous effort of learning and growing along with it. The single most important thing to remember when doing this is to just have fun! Now let’s all get out there and Foursquare the planet!

I have assembled a Twitter list of all the location specific Foursquare Community accounts and will continue to update as more pop up.

What are some other benefits do you see that Foursquare Communities provide?  Are there any specific communities that are doing it right which others could study and learn from when getting their communities off the ground?

Post by: Chad Elkins – Find Chad on Twitter and Foursquare