I've been an iPhone user/addict for about five months now and, after I got the hang of typing on a touch screen keyboard, I started giving Foursquare a try. For those who don't know, Foursquare is a location-based mobile application that allows users to "check in" at their favorite businesses and see who else in their network is there. Take a look at it here.
At first check-in, I found it totally pointless. It seemed a bit self-aggrandizing to constantly be telling everyone where I was ("Yum - oysters! - I'm @ Perla's" or "Love this bar! - I'm @Lustre Pearl"). But over the last few years I've learned to live by the school of thought that eventually, everything comes back into fashion (leggings, anyone?), so I've stuck with the app.
And now - shocker - I'm hooked. I've totally bought into the importance of mobile everything. We now all have a billboard in our pockets. For politicians and political candidates, this is the equivalent of a digital push-card that costs nothing. Foursquare and other "You are here" social apps will prove to be very useful to politicians whose strategists are smart enough to use them. Why?
1. Checking In = The New Office Hours
Politicians are all about "the message." What could be a better message than an elected official "Checking In" (for Foursquare beginners, that means they're logging their arrival at a certain location) at City Hall or the Capitol every day? Granted, we know they're not always on the job, but the subliminal message behind a politician "checking in" is important.
2. The Foursquare Quorum: Power in Numbers
Politicians often form alliances and Foursquare offers a chance for those political ties to grow even stronger. If two Austin City Council members are both on Twitter and they go to the same ribbon-cutting at the Long Center, their check-in on Foursquare will automatically reflect that with a public mention of the two members being at the same location (assuming they're friends on Foursquare). This strategy can quietly show an entire group of legislators united or working toward something and, redistricting aside, how often does that happen?
3. I'm @ Winning Campaign Central
For campaigns, Foursquare offers endless possibilities. Want to attract more volunteers? Host a Foursquare competition where the volunteer with the most check-ins at your campaign office gets a prize, like dinner with the candidate or going behind the scenes on the campaign trail for a day. Not only does this create an incentive for people to volunteer more, but by publicly checking in, each of those volunteers is spreading the word about your campaign on their Facebook, Twitter and even as a direct notification to their Foursquare friends. Talk about GOTV - each check-in has a possible reach of three channels multiplied by the countless people the volunteer is connected to who might not otherwise have heard of your campaign.
If you're a Twittering politician or are considering running for office, get yourself an iPhone and learn how to use Foursquare. Think about it as an extension of your direct mail or field coordination and come up with an innovative way to put this app to work.
And when you're done, let me know how it went. Preferably in 140 characters or less.