Geo-Tagging: What Art Thou To Me? – Part I

Those of you who read my blog (much appreciated, by the way) may think that I am obsessed with foursquare. And, perhaps that is true. I am very much looking an upcoming talk by Dennis, but that is beside the point. I am simply fascinated by the concept of this mobile application, how it affects my life, other people’s lives, our society, communication, and so on – and how that is evolving with the expanding usage of this tool, Gowalla and other hyper-local activities.

As of this week (this entry was initiated March 20th), foursquare has half a million users. That is up from 400,000 last week due to intense guerrilla marketing at the South by Southwest event (SXSW) last weekend. That, in itself, is noteworthy. From what I’ve heard, foursquare got the jump on Gowalla last March when it spread throughout the South by Southwest community – demonstrating the power of crowds and of live viral communication. Bring a group together with a passion for social media, and you can increase your audience by 25% in a weekend. Based on a CNET podcast, it also seems that Gowalla increased its user base that weekend with many foursquare users adding that application to their smartphone portfolio.

As someone who often works from home and who has many different “social graphs,” i.e., social and professional networks, foursquare has been of great interest to me as it has allowed me to stay in touch with the world beyond West 74th Street, meet new people, feel connected to a range of people and deepen my personal and professional relationships. I am also intrigued by the way in which the gaming aspect of the function affects me.

By ranking people based on points and awarding points based on the number and characteristics of check-ins, foursquare brings out my competitive side and consequently influences my behavior. I feel motivated to get out, to go to multiple locations, to get to the gym because Kandace went there before work, and I want to unlock the Gym Rat badge, to check-in on my way to the subway so that I have time to capture that location. It also makes me more aware of my behavior. Until foursquare told me, I had no idea that I had been to a certain location 10 times in 30 days. I thought I went there once or twice a week. I am the mayor of Pinky Nail Salon, Fashion 74 Nails, MaxWax, Andy’s Deli, Duane Reade and other local spots; this makes me aware of the fact that I frequent these place and that few other foursquarers do. And when I am dethroned (aka ousted), as with Duane Reade, I sense the expansion of the game’s popularity. The first thing I do when I arrive somewhere is check in. The next thing I do is check my ranking.

Each day, foursquare has a unique impact on my day as I watch the way in which it influences my city, myself, and at the risk of being melodramatic, my world. I include my world because I was surprised to see how prevalent it was in Puerto Rico.

Hence, I have decided to keep a little diary of my new life with foursquare:

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

I’ve just returned home from a long day in Central Park, at a seminar and hanging out with a friend.

Most days that I check in at home, there is nothing trending in my neighborhood, which makes me feel like a bit of a pioneer. Today, there were two places: First, AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13, the huge multiplex theater on 67th-ish and Broadway. That makes sense. And second, a place called, I believe, Bar 460. I say, “I believe” because when I went to double check it just now, it was no longer trending, and I couldn’t find it at all. Ah well, I came very close to learning of a new venue in my neighborhood.

Oh, and in going back to look for Bar 460, I saw that the AMC theater had only 5 people. So, that’s trending for the Upper West Side. It could be one group of friends. Ah, and voila, at 10:45pm the movie theater is no longer trending. I guess the early show is finished.

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Five weeks ago, I was fresh off the Social Media Week boat (metaphorical) and freshly on the foursquare bandwagon. I was like a person who had just finished the Landmark Education Forum. My enthusiasm was so great that it was contagious. It was at that time that I had a meeting with a senior executive at a major advertising agency. In demonstrating the application – having already checked in at the location – I noted that there was one person at the agency who was showing up as present. A senior Creative executive. The Strategy executive called him to acknowledge his tastemaker status, and I friended him.

Today, I visited the agency again, and there were six people who had checked in. A six-fold increase in five weeks. I should feel good that the religion is spreading, but I am also feeling a little less uniquely “cool.”

This evening, as I was walking from one nail salon (closed for the night) to another, I used the opportunity to check in. Glancing down at my options, I noticed a new location that was “Trending Now.” The name seemed to be “Sunburned” something and glancing at it as I walked, I thought it was a tanning salon! My observation, therefore: it looks like folks are getting ready for the warmer weather – though I was a little perplexed given the current temperature of 50-something and a less than inspiring weather forecast.

Later that evening, when I arrived home, and my nails were dry enough to remove my iPhone from my pocket, I took another look at the name of the locale – which was still trending on the Wednesday night. It was “Sunburnt Calf.” As it turns out, Sunburnt Calf is a new bar and brunch locale – an offshoot of Sunburnt Cow in the East Village and BondiRoad on Rivington Street – wherever that is – and has been open a little more than two months. Perhaps I am back in the know!

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

I’ve noticed that a my foursquare friends seem to spend a lot of time at airports. Is it a reflection of my group of friends, of people in general (with me as the exception), or the fact that since people have a lot of “free” time at airports they are more likely to check in. I think it is a combination with an emphasis on the latter. I’ve also noted that a disproportionate number of my friends seem to out of JFK – very few from Laguardia – and often fly JetBlue. Good taste. As I see them checking in at Terminal 5, I try to recall whether I was the one who set up that specific location.

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

The Museum of Natural History has been trending this week. It must be spring break. On a related note, the Shake Shack across the street from the museum has also been trending.

A new person has started checking into Pure Yoga. A man! Quite a feat since I get absolutely no AT&T coverage within the building.

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

25 people at the SOHO Apple Store early on a Saturday morning. Could it be that early adopters of foursquare are early adopters of the iPad. I think so. Moreover, it leads me to ask: What is the ratio of Apple to PC users…

…in general
…on Twitter
…on foursquare
…with iPads – ok, that one is loaded

Tuesday, April 7th, 2010

I’m told that foursquare now has 750,000 users and 16 employees. (I wouldn’t mind becoming #17…)

Attended a social media panel at razorfish’s NY offices (SMAC) followed by drinks and plentiful bar food at Heartland Brewery. foursquare users abounded – first time for me in a while.

Whoops – almost forgot the most important bit of news! foursquare is rolling out analytics services. The implications for marketers are tremendous!

Oh, and another, Tom C. tells me that the social marketing executive for JetBlue always keeps tabs on who is the Mayor of Terminal 5 at JFK. Smart. As I said above, I think there’s a lot of opportunity at airports – captive audience with time to kill away from most of their social graph.

Continued at Geo-Tagging: What Art Thou to Me? – Part II

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