Time Magazine Partners With Foursquare To Help Republican Convention Attendees Find Each Other
Mark Drapeau (Tampa, FL) —
Where are my friends? Where are the VIP’s? What’s the best party to attend tonight?
Those are not uncommon questions when you’re at a huge event like the Republican National Convention. Tampa, FL, where it is being held, is a spread-out city, and events sponsored by myriad companies and organizations are being held miles from each other. There’s no single definitive list of everything that’s happening. And with relatively little public transportation, it’s more important than ever to be targeted and selective about where you go, and why.
Time magazine has been doing some modest digital experiments at the Republican Convention, including having a fresh “digital cover” of the magazine on their website every day (today’s is Paul Ryan, who speaks tonight…yesterday’s featured Ann Romney). One of these experiments is a collaboration with the social media company Foursquare, which allows users to “check in” to locations using their mobile app. Using Foursquare, you can also earn points and badges for achieving certain things — you might earn a “Hot Tamale” badge for checking into five distinct Mexican restaurants, for example.
Knowing how many times you’ve eaten Mexican food this year may or may not be useful, but knowing where the Congressman who represents your district is hanging out at the RNC might be very useful if you’re a delegate. Well, Time and Foursquare are trying to achieve just that with their dynamic Foursquare map for the RNC (my understanding is that they’ll also be doing this at the Democratic Convention in Charlotte next week). Users must opt-in to this map because their locations are, frankly, publicly displayed for the world to see on a major media website. Nevertheless, throughout the week more and more people have been opting in and experimenting with the service.
I asked Time about why they thought this was an interesting experiment to deploy in Tampa. TIME.com managing eEditor Catherine Sharick told me, “TIME partnered with FourSquare for the political conventions in order to help solve a common problem: where are people and what is happening? We hope the combination of the tips, guides, badges and maps from TIME will help make the experience more informative and fun for everyone in Tampa and Charlotte this year, in addition to our overall convention coverage.”
Celebrity users of the Time/Foursquare map include Mitt Romney’s campaign, the mayor of Tampa, Bob Buckhorm, and journalist Mark Halperin.
And, of course, me (just kidding). But I have been experimenting with this a bit since I’ve been in Tampa. I can prove it, too: I earned the “Time Political Animal” badge for checking into a designated location within the RNC grounds. For those not familiar with Foursquare, your badges live forever on your user profile, and typically the earning of a new badge is blasted to one’s Twitter users (assuming the Foursquare user tweets), so the badge pictured at left is great branding on Time’s part.
It’s a little unclear how tactically useful the overall map is — I can already see where my friends are on Foursquare, and do I really want to go to a location where a certain “stranger” is at? Additionally, it shows a user’s last checked location, yet there’s no guarantee they’re still there — but the primary point is not so much the quality of this particular map at this moment, but that what we’re seeing is an evolution in how social media companies are interacting with important events like the convention (Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook also all have a presence here in Tampa), and in how mainstream media brands are experimenting with digital.
I’m looking forward to seeing how Time’s dynamic Foursquare map develops during the course of the week in Tampa, and how it evolves in a similar or different manner in Charlotte next week at the other convention; Charlotte is a more condensed city, which lends itself better to using Foursquare and relocating quickly based on real-time geo-data.
Dr. Mark Drapeau is the Director of Innovative Engagement (Public Sector) at Microsoft. You can follow him on Twitter at @cheeky_geeky.