Foursquare: A Potential Boon for Theatres?

by Claire Mazur

in Do It Yourself,Tech & the Arts

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I’ve been working for TCG for a little over a year, and in that time I’ve seen social media usage by our member theatres (and by us!) grow exponentially. This can largely be attributed to the fact that around the same moment that social media began to move beyond the boundaries of the personal to accommodate businesses, the economy started to crumble—and suddenly social media seemed like a more obvious tool than ever before. Theatres in particular have been successfully using social media for audience development, fundraising, marketing and more–and the costs are largely limited to manpower.

Many of our members have been on Facebook and Twitter for some time now, and I’m guessing the next social media must-have for theatres is going to be Foursquare. It’s a location-based mobile social media application, and, like Twitter, it’s an incredibly simple concept: it allows users to share their physical location with their network of friends. If you’re looking for something to do, but don’t feel like contacting all of your friends to find out where they are, you can simply check their statuses on Foursquare. Conversely, if you’re hanging out somewhere or attending an event and want others to join you, Foursquare provides an easy way to let everyone know where you are. Or maybe you’re somewhere—a show, a concert, or a bar-and want to know if anyone else you know also happens to be there—Foursquare makes it easy to find out.

Foursquare’s simple concept lends itself to a host of more complex dynamics. Entering your location on Foursquare is termed “checking in” and the user that checks in the most at a particular spot is crowned the “mayor” of that location. Various businesses that recognize the potential in Foursquare have begun offering prizes and privileges to incentivize checking in—a theatre-specific example of this would be offering users who check in at your theatre two or more times a 10% discount on their next ticket purchase, or rewarding the mayor of your theatre with a backstage tour. Importantly, Foursquare recently announced an open API (application programming interface), meaning that developers will be able to create third-party applications on top of Foursquare’s technology, which will likely revolutionize the way it is used in the same way applications have been crucial to Twitter and Facebook (think Tweetdeck and Mafia Wars).

At the Fall Forum I heard a lot of theatres talk about the trend towards last-minute ticket buying, and I also heard it echoed on the NEA webcast discussion of the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts–imagine the implications something like Foursquare could have for dealing with this issue. I’m really eager to hear stories about any theatres that are already using Foursquare, as well as ideas for how theatres could best adapt Foursquare for their own purposes.


Claire Mazur is Management Programs Associate at TCG. Prior to working for TCG she completed her masters in Arts Administration at Columbia University, and prior to that she completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Chicago. She is particularly interested in how social media—and the internet in general—is changing the way art is bought, sold and consumed.

  • jonathanelliott

    Hi there–I work for, and we're prepping a mobile app for later this year that will incorporate Foursquare functionality.

    Imagine, location-based discounts and coupons that are pushed to your 4S account via mobile triangulation/gps? Discounts and awards based on check-ins and “mayor” status?

    Think of the uses for pr stunts–how would something like Arena Stage's excellent city-wide scavenger hunt of last year be altered by this technology?

    How does widespread 4s usage help with the datagathering/metrics of audience attendance?

    Starbucks is one of the first FourSquare corporate partners–the infrastructure is being set for these uses. I'm anxious to see how this pans out.

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  • David Jenkins

    We've been using this technology for a little bit, and it's effective. Our city has heavy 4S usage. We've already set up a special for 1st check-in, and are working on adding other specials for mayors and repeat customers.

  • Carl Benson

    While I can see how this would be useful to any company, personally, that technology scares the absolute crap out of me and I AM the Web 2.0 generation. I just find it creepy that people can know where I am and what I'm doing at any given moment. But who knows, maybe there are lots of my peers who don't see the harm in constantly telling others everything about what they're doing at all times. Also, I just posted this on my FB status and linked to it on my blog and emailed it to ….

  • MBeachboard

    I'm an educator and am pushing to develop theatre-loving audiences. I've been working a lot with teenagers, and they are all over facebook. I've had great success in hyping up shows on FB, and I can't imagine what would happen if they started using FS. Too cool!

  • Not Telling

    This is total crap. Guess what? People don’t want everyone to know where they’re at at all times. They tell the people they want to know. This might as well be called stalkersquare. The only people I could see interested in this are losers who don’t normally get invited to go places…the people other people LIKE to avoid. Mayor of a coffee shop? Way to go! Woohoo. Please stop writing about stupid crap.

  • Noclegi Mrągowo

    Nice Blog :D

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