Ryan Lytle

The geo-location service can be an effective tool for uniting students with their schools

The location-based mobile service Foursquare has made a name for itself by making "cities easier to use and more interesting to explore," according to its website. And now, the platform, which launched in 2009 and boasts roughly 15 million users worldwide, enables college students to better connect with their campuses. With each check-in at a location, a person can learn information about a venue, find tips, or earn rewards, such as discounts or Foursquare badges (perks for using the application).

Some schools, such as the University of Kansas, have created an official voice on Foursquare, says Justin Henning, social media manager at KU.

"We just want to be where the students are so that we're accessible," he says. "[W]e work to provide an official, curated experience on Foursquare ... so that our campus locations are represented appropriately and showcase comments that have utility for other students using the service."

Sirena Larance, a student at Glendale Community College in Arizona, says she has been a fan of Foursquare since she began using it in 2010.

"I kind of felt exclusive because I know a lot of people don't really use Foursquare around here," Larance says. "But I feel a little more into the school now that I use it."

Here are a few ways students can use Foursquare to connect with their schools:

1. Dig into school history and explore campus tips:

When someone checks in at a venue (as locations are called on Foursquare), he or she is welcomed by a screen that includes tips, photos, and facts about the location. Some colleges are using these opportunities to share information about particular locations on campus.

At Texas Tech University, there is an emphasis on sharing historical facts about buildings on campus, notes Allison Ralston, senior editor for PR in new media at the institution.

"There's a lot of history here on our campus, and I think it's something a lot of our students don't necessarily know," Ralston says. "I think just putting those little bits out there makes people really connect with the university."

At American University in Washington, D.C., when students check in, they not only receive historical facts -- such as the exact campus location where President John F. Kennedy gave his 1963 commencement address -- but also school information that may be helpful to current students.

"I actually reached out to a lot of students to get their insider tips on campus -- [w]hether there's a quiet study spot that not everybody knows about or the best sandwich in one of our sandwich shops," says Jon Hussey, manager of web communications at AU, who oversees the school's Foursquare presence.

Glendale student Larance says that she began using tips on Foursquare to find events and suggestions for things to do on campus. Today, checking tips at a venue has become part of her daily routine.

2. Use Foursquare Lists:

When Texas Christian University began using Foursquare in 2010, it focused its efforts on prospective students. Using Foursquare Lists -- which are lists of related venues to explore created by a Foursquare user -- the university created a campus list that mimicked the tours given by admissions counselors, says Amy Peterson, new media specialist at TCU.

Now, the university has six lists for students and alumni to use for self-guided tours of their choosing.

3. Earn rewards for engagement:

Any way a college or university can offer students something in exchange for using Foursquare is a "great idea," says Chloë Troia, a senior at AU and president of the university's Social Media Club.

"I think any type of incentivized campaign will always increase [student] engagement," she says. "It's a really cool way to interact with the campus."

One such Foursquare campaign took place this fall at the University of Kansas. Known as the Rock Chalk Check-in Challenge, incoming freshmen were asked to check in at venues across the campus to earn Foursquare badges. Five badges were offered, and students who hit each target were entered into a drawing to win an iPad.

During the contest, students who checked in at certain venues received special prizes, such as free flash drives at the library and discounts on athletics tickets. The competition increased student engagement on Foursquare, KU's Henning says.

"We've really just seen more people reach out and interact with us on that service," he notes. "We're definitely responding to those check-ins with an added benefit when it's appropriate."


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3 Ways to Use Foursquare to Connect With Your College