Foursquare is the newest game on Topeka’s playground, and it’s just as competitive as the old school game from 4th Grade recess.
by Kerrice Mapes | photo by Colin MacMillan / Nathan Ham Photography
Where are you? What are you doing? Where are you going? For many seveneightfivers, familiar nightly texts are going to the wayside as they adopt the new social media platform called Foursquare. And while Foursquare isn’t new (it started in 2009 and was adopted by New York urbanites and SXSW attendees on a rapid basis), for Topeka, its recent trending has made it the new kid in school.
The fast-growing social network service is a friend-locator, a city-special guide and a competitive game. Foursquare lets users check in with their cell phone at establishments and alerts their friends to their current location. The free app can be used on any phone, but is best with smartphones with GPS. Your alerts can then be targeted to your select group of Foursquare friends or you can alert your entire Twitter and Facebook network.
The beauty behind Foursquare is that others can leave comments and tips at establishments you visit. For example, if you venture to Bosco’s and check in using Foursquare, you’ll find over 330 check-ins and four tips, varying from Tracy S. who tells you to “try their cosmo- it’s the best I’ve had!” You can also access customer reviews like the one from Daniel C. who boasts, “Boscos is the best place to do lunch and also meet with your friends at night to catch up while listening to exquisite local bands jam the night away.”
It’s human nature to ask our friends for reviews of local establishments, and Foursquare puts those at your fingertips.
This peer referral source Foursquare offers is a cost-effective way for local businesses to reward their repeat customers. Rewards or specials can be given every time you visit (Check-in at College Hill Tavern and take $1 off your appetizer), for a certain number of visits (Get a free serving of s’mores after five check-ins at Sub TropiXS) and for new clients (Take 15 percent off any service when you check-in at Envy Salon). The true reward, however, is becoming the Mayor of a location. Mayorship is gained when you have the most check-ins in a certain time frame. The Mayorship of a location can change with just one check-in and Foursquare will proudly boast new Mayorships on your social media platforms (with permission).
Jim Ogle (user name Jim O.), general manager of WIBW and known as the “Mayor of Topeka” among local Foursquare users was an early adopter. He currently boasts 236 Mayorships including his home, Via’s Pizzeria and Michelle’s Lounge.
“It connects you to places in your community that you may forget to think about,” said Jim O.
Jim O. was an early adopter via his profession in media and aggressively looks for trends, including mobile, that can be used at the station. Coming soon will be WIBW badges.
And while checking in and getting discounts is enough, for most, the narcissistic side of some individuals prevails as does the competitive side of earning Mayorships.
“Whenever you are at the mountaintop there are always people who want to take you down,” said Jim O. “I know that there is a group of people who have great fun in their efforts to go to places I go to and check in to take away some of the Mayorships that I have. I get a kick out of it.”
For many in the group of “Jim O. Foursquare Opponents,” it’s simple: to play the game and win Mayorships; to catch Jim O. not in a location and to beat him at different locations.
One of these opponents is local barista Tyler Rowlinson (username Tyler R.). Tyler R. was a later adopter of Foursquare.
“Why would I want everyone to know where I am all the time?” thought Tyler R. when he first heard about Foursquare. However, once he started checking it out, he added some venues and got his first Mayorship. “I was like ‘wow,’ now I want to be the mayor of my work… my apartment…”
But when he tried to become the mayor of his workplace, Blackbird Bistro, a rivalry ignited with Jim O.
“We used to fight over Blackbird for Mayorship,” explained Tyler R. “I was like ‘I’m here every single day but I can’t become the Mayor because Jim O. has it. But he’s not here everyday, so I’m calling his bluff.’”
“I go to all those places and check-in,” said Jim O. “I’m fortunate to get to participate in a lot of community organizations. So I go to a lot of places to meet and engage with folks.”
The playful battle is heating up as more folks are getting involved with the game and new heights have been taken that make me wonder if these small disputes could possible ruin Foursquare for our community.
“I’m trying to take over Jim O.’s house,” said Tyler R. When asked how he would check in, he explained that because he worked in Fleming Place and was so close to Jim O’s home, he could still check-in without actually being there.
“If he is gonna take three to five of my Mayorships in one day, I’m gonna take his house,” Tyler R. said.
With people checking-in and making up locations like, “Jim Ogle’s soul,” or the “Lamp Dancer, “ (which Tyler R. was Mayor of as of publishing), will this tiff ruin it for others?
Luckily for us, Foursquare has created Superusers. Superusers are local social media mavens (Like Heather M., Brandon S. and Brendan J.) who help keep things in check and delete fake locations (like “Jim Ogle’s soul”).
While Mayorships can change as quickly as the weather, both Tyler R. and Jim O. laugh about the competition.
“It’s all good-natured fun” said Jim.
“If I want to know what is going on in Topeka, I can look at Foursquare and see what is trending,” said Tyler R. “You know what’s going on, in the moment, and if you are looking for something to do or something to eat, go on Foursqure and read comments. Good and bad. And it’s kind of like a ‘hell yeah’ when you become the Mayor of a location.”
Badges? Yes, I want my stinkin’ badges!
Some Foursquare users are perfectly content to check in where they naturally visit and collect badges. Like coffee? Check in to your fave coffee shops and get a “Fresh Brew” badge. Checking in while on a boat? You get an “I’m on a Boat!” badge. Many local users were amused to get a, “You’re not Kansas Anymore,” badge when they checked in after crossing the border into Missouri.
[ republished from July 15 print issue seveneightfive ]