A few weeks ago I wrote a post on some of the latest updates to Foursquare's specials. To make the platform worthwhile beyond just a fun game for users, Foursquare has overhauled a lot of their services with version 3.0. This went beyond just specials, the location-based social network wanted to make using their platform a useful way for users to discover new places in their surroundings. Boom, new algorithms that form a better recommendation engine for you and me. What does that mean for us non-techies? It means the 'Explore' tab, a new service that takes info from your check-ins, your friends check-ins and presents you with search results of nearby venues that are more relevant to your interests.
Hit the explore tab, type in something like 'art' or 'mexican food' and Foursquare will take into account all your and your friends past check-ins to come up with the most relevant venue. So not only will it tell you where a venue is, but why you should want to go there. In addition to searching, there are also buttons along the top focused on common venue types people are looking for. You might already be familiar with how recommendation engines work, it is how music sites like Pandora and Last.fm are able to suggest relevant material for their users.
So why should arts organizations care? Because this may be the simplest of all ways to participate in the location-based game. Claim your venue, add relevant information and start showing up in search results. Claiming a venue is free, gives you control over your brand, and will improve your search and recommendation results not only with Foursquare, but all of the apps and platforms out there using Foursquare's API (programming language and database) like Gowalla and hundreds of others.
While you're staking your claim with Foursquare, you may want to claim your venue on the two other big location-players - Facebook Places and Google Places. Google has some recommendation engines in the works and while Facebook doesn't offer one, claiming your venue there will still make you more visible to a very large group of users.
Claiming your venue on these three platforms is an easy and free way to take advantage of a fast-growing social media form. It's a simple step that may equal a return for your organization that a lot of other social networks can't offer - foot traffic.