Location, Location, Location: Register Your Library on Foursquare
What's the first rule of buying real estate? Location, of course.
In a conference program at ALA 2011, Stephen Abram said that he was once asked why libraries should care about using Foursquare. His response: "Why do libraries have branches? Because location matters!"
Location matters to everyone, whether you're buying a house, mapping your next road trip, or trying to find the most convenient library to checkout a book. Libraries can now take advantage of services that capitalize on location, and Foursquare is one tool for the job.
Everyone has seen reports of the increasing use of smart phones for Internet access and communication. The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project reported that fully 87% of teen cell users text, and in another study, 47% of adults report that they get at least some of their local news and information on their cell phone or tablet computer. Foursquare is a social tool that can help libraries promote their location to patrons using their mobile devices. Through use of geolocation on any smart phone or internet enabled device, Foursquare offers people the opportunity to "check-in" and virtually announce that they are in a certain location. People can choose to share their "check-in" information with fellow Foursquare users, their Facebook friends or Twitter followers, or they can keep it to themselves.
So, why would anyone bother with checking-in?
In major cities, retailers are jumping on the bandwagon to offer incentives to their patrons for checking-in. For example, on a recent trip to Philadelphia, I checked in at popular clothing store, showed my phone to the cashier, and because that retailer was offering an online incentive, I received 25% off my purchase. In another example, I was in a new Mexican restaurant, trying to decide what to order. I checked-in and read some of the "tips" that fellow customers had left for other Foursquare users. They said that everyone should try the fish tacos, and that's exactly what I did. (They were delicious!)
What do libraries have in common with retail shops, since patrons aren't buying anything?
We have to remember that libraries are as much about borrowing books as they are about the other types of experiences that people have while they're there. When patrons are in a library, they're buying into an experience. Offering tips about new programs or book clubs the library is running, reading suggestions, or free library-branded giveaways to folks who check-in are just a few ways that libraries could be using this form of social media.
Become the Mayor at Your Library
Many locations offer incentives for people who check-in more than any other person. Foursquare builds in the ability to create competition among patrons. Perhaps the winner is featured on your library's website, or gets a prime parking spot. Think about other ways that you can offer your loyal patrons something a little extra special when they visit.
The best part:
It's free advertising! Your patrons do all the hard work of promoting the library for you. When they have an incentive to check-in at your location, they're going to want to share their experience with their friends. It's also an opportunity to learn from your patrons, listen in on their conversations online and see what they like and don't like about the library.
NC LIVE recently began using Foursquare to promote its services to library patrons across the state. Despite not having a physical location where patrons can "enter the doors of NC LIVE," we started leaving tips for people who were already checking in at physical locations of North Carolina libraries. For example, in one tip we said, "Don't forget to ask your librarian about how you can download free audio books" and then provided a URL to the service available via NC LIVE.
There are a lot of ways that libraries could benefit from the use of geolocational services, like Foursquare. Libraries exist to serve people within our communities, and geolocational services like Foursquare allow us to participate in those communities more readily. I would encourage you to see what opportunities are available for your library.
Find Out Who's Already Checking-in at Your Library
It's simple to sign-up, just go to Foursquare's website and enter your information. You can read more about "claiming" your library location on foursquare.com, here: https://foursquare.com/business/venues
Want to see an example? New York Public Library on Foursquare
Also check out this article: History Channel Turns Foursquare Into a Real World Pop-Up Video
Oh and don't forget to add NC LIVE as a friend on Foursquare!
Written by: Jill Robinson Morris, NC LIVE staff