This is a blast from the past from Carrie Reynolds, about her 4sqday 2010 experience from Bellefontaine, OH. I never got around to posting it last year, so I’m thrilled to be posting it now! You can connect with Carrie via Twitter , Facebook and LinkedIn.

Now that I’ve had time to process the recent “Foursquare Day” (4/16/10- 4 “squared” = 16. get it now?) event held in my community of Bellefontaine, Ohio, I am in total awe of the power of social media. I always knew it was a fantastic tool for communication, but never have I experienced its complete viral effect. Wow.

With the help of local businesses such as Chattan Loch Bistro & Public House, FastTrack Signs and Alan Galvez Insurance (shameless plug for my business here), we pulled together a totally fun party and experience like no other. This was truly an experiment as the Foursquare application is still relatively new and Bellefontaine is a small town (we hover around 14,000 population and 40,000 countywide). Suffice it to say, there aren’t many users of Foursquare, nor many businesses that have jumped on board to offer promotional tie-ins.

Before I get too involved, there are probably several of you asking. “So what the heck is Foursquare?” Here is a very basic explanation: by using your phone’s GPS (or even via text message) you can select places you visit (or add if not already listed) and “check-in” to those places. You earn points and badges for various achievements and can even become mayor if you check-in often enough. For a more detailed explanation you can go to Foursquare’s help page.

Chattan Loch saw the first mentions of Foursquare Day by following the trend on Twitter (#4sqday was the trend to identify Foursquare Day parties). They discovered that Cincinnati was the only Ohio city holding a celebration. They saw the tremendous potential in holding a unique event (especially for Bellefontaine) and offering additional value to those that attended (food & drink specials, live music and a T-shirt to the first 50 “check-ins”). So, they ran with it.

I follow Chattan Loch on Twitter and responded with great enthusiasm when they asked if any of their followers were interested in having the party and also helping with its planning and promotion. I figured that it would only help their business by bringing more people to the establishment and really, who can resist a party? Kudos to the owners Tracy and Leah McPherson for taking a chance on such a new concept and for fully embracing all aspects.

Along with Carly & Dennis Schaub (FastTrack Signs), I met with Tracy, one week before the actual date to discuss basic information as to how we wanted the event to proceed and what promotional items and restaurant specials to offer. We even suggested that the “Mayor” should receive a special incentive as well. That was our only face to face meeting. In that one week period leading up to the event, between the four of us, we spread the word on Facebook (an event was created) and Twitter. Chattan Loch also contacted Foursquare directly to get the mayor special created and 4sqday.com to list the event on their site (a separate group of folks who came up with the idea to create Foursquare Day). Take note- there was absolutely NO traditional advertising done. Only Facebook, Twitter, and the Foursquare and 4sqday websites.

Another fun twist to the event was that the 4sqday team rolled out the idea of “swarm” challenges (when at least 50 people check into a location in the same night in a certain time frame, you get the coveted Swarm badge). Pune, India (seriously only in social media), challenged Bellefontaine to see who could achieve the most check-ins. Chattan Loch accepted the challenge and thus a fun element of competition was added to the event.

So, after a week of spreading the word, the big night arrived. Honestly I didn’t know what to expect. I was so nervous. Would we have no one? Would we get the Swarm badge? The clock chimed 7 o’clock (the time frame was 7-10 for check-ins) and amazingly enough, people arrived. And kept arriving. We passed out T-shirts, and stamped hands so they could get their specials. An additional thank you to All About Stitches & More for coordinating the T-shirt printing.

We even got some people who had never used Foursquare, but decided that evening was the right time to learn and to support a local event. Luckily, my husband (huge shout-out to Robert- thank you, thank you), brought his laptop and took over the tech support of getting people signed up for a Foursquare account, getting them checked-in and keeping a tally of how close to 50 we were. Did I mention he’s not even a user? He believes in supporting local business, and even signed up for that one night so we could achieve the Swarm badge.

One of the neatest parts of the evening was when two girls from Toledo showed up. Yes, they drove the almost 2 hours to attend our event. They followed the trend on Twitter and had originally decided to go to Cincinnati. They found our party and said “Hey, this is closer.” I knew they were coming as I had seen their RSVP on the Facebook event. So we welcomed them and were very excited they chose to come see us. So thank you Jessica and Erin for coming to Bellefontaine. Erin even stated “When we hit the city limits, we screamed “Yay” we made it to Bellefontaine.” Seriously, how cool is that?

Just to throw some figures out, Bellefontaine ended up being one of approximately 250 cities worldwide to participate. So, you’re also asking “Did you get the Swarm badge?” Yes, we were one of 45 venues to achieve it. Did we beat Pune, India? No. But really, deep down, is that what the whole event was about? I don’t think so. I honestly think it shows what social media can accomplish and what people can accomplish when they work together for a joint cause. If you want to get somewhat highbrow, I truly think it showcases the power of belief in each other and how positive action really can lift people up.

So, tell me, did you attend a Foursquare Day party? (whether it was ours or elsewhere). What did you think? How was your experience? I would be interested to know (and if you attended ours, I’m sure the host and other sponsors really want to hear your thoughts). I had a blast and really enjoyed the evening of fun & fellowship. I hope you can say the same.

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