I’ve found myself in several conversations lately about how to utilize Foursquare, the location-based social media game, at theatres and other non-profits or arts organizations. I wanted to compile some of my thoughts on the matter here for easy reference.
Tips for theatres:
Just because you only have a few check-ins, that doesn’t mean Foursquare is useless for you. Foursquare users are willing to go new places when offered incentives. Adding check-in specials or detailed tips will get people looking into your theatre — clicking through to your Twitter feed, possibly even stopping by your physical location, or at least seeing where you are, what you’re near, etc. You can attract more attention by beginning to use Foursquare, and could very well see your check-ins increase because of it.
Create check-in specials scaled to your season and your ticket sales. If you run 7 shows in a season, don’t offer something for free on the 10th check-in. No one will get there. Better to offer something on the first check-in, to encourage new patrons who are Foursquare users and returning patrons who are new Foursquare users. Then offer another special on a later check-in, to reward your returning patrons.
The possibilities for specials are endless, but here are a few ideas:
- First check-in: 25% off tickets. Or more or less, depending on how your tickets are selling and how much you already charge.
- Third check-in: one free drink at the concession stand.
- Checking in to every show in the season: buy one, get one free tickets for the last show of the year.
If your theatre has special events, such as dinner club nights or backstage tours, you can increase attendance by creating Foursquare specials to go along with them, thereby also bridging the gap between patrons who only see shows and patrons who attend shows and special events. If you partner with a nearby restaurant, team up to offer specials to patrons who check-in both places in one night.
Claim your venue and check out what people are saying about you. The venue tips on Foursquare are completely user-generated, which makes them a great place to get feedback. While it is harder to communicate directly with those patrons who’ve left feedback, negative “tips” can still be a great way to correct patron frustrations, and positive tips let you know what you’re doing right. Google search your theatre’s name + Foursquare, find your venue page, and see what’s going on.
Advertise your presence on Foursquare in your physical location, as well as your online materials. Put Foursquare stickers on your door or box office window, to remind patrons to check in. Foursquare users tend to be savvy social media users with a multitude of accounts, so link to your Foursquare profile page on your website and Facebook. Announce new specials on your Twitter feed. Retweet check-ins and thank patrons for attending or ask them what they thought of the show.
Find out whether visiting your theatre can help users earn badges. If so, blog about it, publicize it in the lobby, or even print it in the program. Earning badges is one of the most fun aspects of Foursquare, and can greatly help drum up new visitors. It may be a little more challenging to figure out if your theatre can help a user earn badges, but with a little research and creativity, it can be done. Maybe there’s a great food wagon right outside that many patrons visit when they come? Tell them they can earn the Ziggy’s Wagon badge. Have a gallery in your lobby? Make sure it’s tagged correctly, and your patrons can work on earning their Warhol badge. If your venue is really lucky, actually checking in there can count towards a badge — such as the Center for Puppetry Arts and the Historian badge. Do some research using a full list of badges, and see which ones you can help your patrons earn.
The beauty of Foursquare is in turning real life travels into a game — with benefits both imaginary (earning badges) and concrete (getting discounts or deals). Utilizing Foursquare at your theatre can create a sense of fun around attending. Moreover, it doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Set up a special, let it run, and see what happens.