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National Archives & FourSquare use: Walk in the Footsteps of the Presidents

I recently attended a webinar hosted by GSA’s Web Manager University who is hosting a series of New Media Talks. I attended a talk by Charles Birnbaum, who is responsible for Business Development and Partnerships at FourSquare.com. on the use of FourSquare in government. He was accompanied by Jill James, social media lead at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

Here some of the take aways from the FourSquare webinar:

FourSquare is a location-based service that provides a smartphone application that helps people check-in at a specific geographic location with the goal to bridge online and offline activities. With every check-in users earn points – more points when they check in at many different locations, less points when they check in repeatedly at the same location. The points accumulate and incentives in forms of badges and mayorships are given for accomplishments, such as a fitness badge when a user checks in 10 times in a row at his local gym:

For businesses, or all types of other organizations, that want to stay in touch with their customers or citizens Foursquare provides a way to brand a specific product or location. To create a brand page or a page for a physical location of an agency where citizens have frequent physical interactions with or can physically walk in, a web destination can be created and the administrators of the page can start to design contests and incentives for their users’ check-ins:

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) was one of the first government agencies in the U.S. that started to use FourSquare to attract and engage visitors to their physical, but also online locations (for more information see a recent press release: The National Archives Plays Foursquare!).

NARA uses the FourSquare web landing page as well as Foursquare’s smartphone applications to share tips by knowledge matter experts and citizens about documents and their physical locations around the country. Experts create tips and educational material for specific physical locations, such as historical sites in Boston, NYC, Philadelphia or Washington, DC, and citizens can learn and engage with those records with every FourSquare check-in:

As an example, a recent initiative called “Walk in the footsteps of the Presidents” guided FourSquare users in collaboration with the Presidential Libraries through the historic events and documents of past U.S. Presidents. Users learn about historical sites, major speeches, dedications, events, but also fun facts, such as code names or favorite restaurants:

The use of FourSquare fits into NARA’s overall Social Media Strategy to engage, collaborate and build communities around records and documents:

Our Core Values for Social Media

Collaboration: Together as one NARA and as partners with the public to accomplish our mission
Leadership: Out in front among government agencies and cultural institutions
Initiative: An agency of leaders who are passionate, innovative, and responsible
Diversity: Making NARA a great place to work by respecting diversity and all voices
Community: Caring about and focusing on the government community, citizen archivists, and each other
Openness: Creating an open NARA with an authentic voice

Many questions of the webinar participants were focused on the “How To” of FourSquare, individual branding, or claiming of landing pages and physical locations.

Two other important issues came up:

1) FourSquare records are not currently not considered social media records and agencies who want to use FourSquare to engage with their audience don’t need to think about records management. Instead, FourSquare tips are linking to other existing records, that are scheduled.
2) FourSquare is a great example of a social media tool that can’t only be administered by the IT or Public Affairs team. Instead, NARA suggests to get subject matter experts of a government agency involved in creating tips for FourSquare users.

Read more about social media records management on the following NARA blog conversation: Records Express and the NARA bulletin 2011-02: Guidance on Managing Records in Web 2.0/Social Media Platforms.

Among many different topics on citizen engagement, GSA’s How To page offers guidance for agencies on how to use social media in government.

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