The Benefits of Using Foursquare for Conferences


Location-based apps are all the rage right now and for good reason.  According to the current most popular app Foursquare, they are averaging just around 400,000 check-ins a day.  That’s 2,800,000 chances a week that someone will be checking into YOUR location.  That is all the more reason to figure out if this is something your organization can use to benefit your conference.

What is Foursquare?

Foursquare is a location-based app that operates by the user checking into the locations that they visit throughout the day.  This can be anything from the local Starbucks, the office or the latest nightclub.  The person that has checked in the most in the last two months automatically becomes the mayor of the location.  Users can also earn badges and even specials based upon their check-in behavior.  My favorite part about Foursquare though is the information that is on the location pages.  The mayor is listed as well as those that have checked into the location publicly.  Also tips can be left on the pages that can range from insider information to reviews.  At first blush, this is not something that could easily be translated into a conference setting, but it is in fact an amazing tool that can make your conference that much better.

Benefits for Sponsors

In this economy, we are all facing the problem of having to create more value in sponsorships.  A lot of us are bringing that value with the social media strategy.  Foursquare can be a great tool in that strategy.

By setting up locations on Foursquare for all of your sponsors, conference attendees can check-in to your sponsors.  This check-in can be potentially be broadcasted over three platforms (Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare), meaning that three sets of contacts are being exposed to your sponsors.  What is better yet is that this coming organically from the conference attendees themselves.  That is potentially fantastic exposure.

Another benefit of setting up locations for your sponsors is the tips section.  A curious attendee that sees a colleague has checked in to one of your sponsors can click on that sponsors location page and see what value that other attendees are getting from that vendor.  Examples of that can be a great product or a fantastic salesperson.  Knowing this ahead of time, the conference attendee goes into meeting with this sponsor more knowledgeable and both can have a much more valuable meeting.

These face-to-face meetings are obviously the most valuable part of the conference for your members.  What is great is that Foursquare can reinforce these.  After the conference is done, your sponsors can go to their page to check out those that checked into what they had to offer.  This will also include information on both attendees’ Twitter and Facebook accounts.  That means that attendees can be directed to sponsors’ Twitter and Facebook accounts by an industrious sponsor.  The conversation from the conference can keep going quickly and easily even if business cards were not exchanged.  In other words, LOADS of benefits for your sponsors.

Benefits for Attendees

In the end, you put on this conference for the attendees.  So anything you do for the conference has to create value for your attendees.  The number one value is just exposing them to this tool.  Location-based apps are going to touch every industry from tourism to small business.  By encouraging them to use Foursquare throughout a conference, it will give attendees an idea of what can be done with it and why they should be using it.  Giving them that knowledge and preparing them for what is coming is pretty priceless.

Foursquare will also encourage networking throughout the conference.  By broadcasting their locations across the three platforms, colleagues can meet up and reinforce relationships, including those relationships that up until the conference had been online only.  Relationships are the backbone of every association and facilitating those relationships can only make your organization and conference stronger.

Since knowledge is power, why not give your attendees more power by making them more knowledgeable?  Tips left on pages set up for the sessions can make your attendees more knowledgeable about why other attendees think a certain speaker is more worthy of their time over another.  Will this kind of power make everyone involved in your conference have to live up to a higher standard?  Yes, but that is not a bad thing.

Benefits for the Association

What is going to be the number one reason to use this?  Well, because you will look cool of course.  In case that is not enough to convince the head of your association, in addition to the benefits listed above there is also the possibility of instant feedback.  Whereas with Twitter you will have to sift through tweets, on Foursquare the comments will be categorized by session, sponsor, etc. and will also include how many people checked into each.  This is categorized real-time information that can be used to improve the conference on the spot.  Talk about power.

Conclusion

The location-based craze is not a fad and will not be going away anytime soon.  Not using it will only handicap your conference and make you less capable of responding to the needs of those that make your conference possible.  Want some strategies for using Foursquare in an organic way through your conference?  Stay tuned for my next post.  And be sure to let me know what you think of my first trip into this blog world in the comments!

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