Society 2.0: Young Washington Checks In (Digitally)

by Editorial

Social media mechanism is all of a sudden the next BIG THING

By Angie Goff

Dr. Mark Drapeau, an earlier Foursquare adopter. (Photo by Tony Powell)

Dr. Mark Drapeau, an earlier Foursquare adopter. (Photo by Tony Powell)

It seems we’ve barely had the chance to forget how to say Myspace before another uber cool, hella hip, ultra-connecting, networking to the max, this is going to connect you with the world more than ever before, social media mechanism is all of a sudden the next BIG THING.

You start to experiment and then some smarty pants scientist and social media expert like Dr. Mark Drapeau comes along to burst your ‘new buzz’ bubble reminding you:

“Don’t forget that there are numerous similar services like Gowalla and Brightkite. Google also bought one, Dodgeball, that basically failed.”

Drapeau, widely known in the blogosphere and Washington scene as @Cheeky_Geeky is talking about Foursquare.  The new online tool lets people ‘check in’ where they’re at all while earning points for visiting bars, restaurants or popular places. Members can earn badges for multiple check-ins, tip people off to what’s hot what’s not and even become the Mayor of the location if they visit it enough.

Kelly Collis Frederick of City Shop Girl says “I use it more than ever because I now have a circle of friends that I keep track of.”  Frederick says she doesn’t friend just anybody. Knowing that a ‘check-in’ means her coordinates are posted she says there are times to go ‘off the grid’ which is an option.

“I am not going to check-in at Red Door when I get a bikini wax because I don’t think my guy followers need to know that.”

When I joined Foursquare I thought I was entering foreign territory but soon recognized many faces from the pages of Washington Life on the Foursquare map. I checked in for lunch at Peacock Cafe’ and saw The Aba Agency’s Aba Kwawu left a tip for others: “Love for lunch meetings. James Dean sandwich is fab.” I got the ‘omelet of egg white’ but Aba I believe you.

Then there’s the ever so spontaneous Ken Suarez. Our local American hero has survived combat, returned home, made a name for himself in the DC charity scene and SURPRISE has racked up a whole lotta badges on Foursquare. Ken’s decorated profile includes The Local Badge, The Bender Badge, The Crunked Badge , The Explorer Badge, The Adventurer Badge.. the list goes on.

I was happy to see my friend Taryn Fielder was also on Foursquare. The sprite philanthropic power among the young Georgetown crowd seems to be just about everywhere. Excited to see her Foursquare feed I couldn’t believe what I found.  Zero, zilch, nada, nothing, not ONE check-in.  Obviously, I couldn’t find her via Foursquare but tracked her down with an old fashion email and asked: Why did you join? Her honest answer.
“Because everyone else was doing it.”

One year old and about 500,000 users strong more people are doing it. Techies will tell you it’s not mainstream… but it’s all the buzz in social media talk when it comes to new tools.

In fact, recently held the first ever “Earn your Badge Night” at the Town Tavern in Northwest DC. WUSA9 Digital Development Director Patrick O’Brien says “It’s like we’re pioneers in the FourSquare party business.”
While partying can be fun concerns over privacy and safety have raised questions. I mean do you really want people to know exactly where you really are?

O’Brien says you’re in control. “Users have the option to check-in without broadcasting the location to everyone, and they’ll still be able to earn the badge. All geo-based apps (Twitter, Foursquare, Gowalla, etc) have the ability to pinpoint user locations; it’s up to the user on whether they choose to display it.”

Drapeau says experiment. He adds there are a lot of potential benefits depending who you are and what you do.“One example – a small, local business can track who checks in and reward good customers.”

And maybe for some it’s not all about the check-in. Take it from yet-to-try-Foursquare-Taryn. Staying ‘off the grid’ could prove to benefit the true social butterfly. Especially… in Washington.

“It seemed like it could be a decent tool for figuring out where I may want be (and maybe more importantly, where I don’t!)”

See you on Foursquare?

Aba Kwawu, Owner of the Aba Agency

Aba Kwawu, Owner of the Aba Agency

Taryn Fielder is a Commercial Real Estate Associate at  Hogan & Hartson (Photo by Kyle Samperton)

Taryn Fielder is a Commercial Real Estate Associate at Hogan & Hartson (Photo by Kyle Samperton)

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