March 31st, 2010
08:30 AM ET
13 years ago

Politicians start checking in on Foursquare

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Kennedy's tweet pointing out he just checked in on Foursquare"]Washington (CNN) – Patrick Kennedy, a 27-year-old Democrat from Arkansas, is an example of the next generation of political candidates. He is on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and is the first congressional candidate to use Foursquare, a location-based social network that allows friends to share their location by "checking in."

"Meeting Chief Kirk Lane (@ Benton Police Dept)," Kennedy wrote in a Foursquare message Monday, which simultaneously also sent out a tweet on @ArkansasKennedy.

An hour later Kennedy was on the move: "Getting ready to meet with County Judge Lanny Fite. (@ Saline County Courthouse)."

"I have always been attracted to new, budding technologies," Kennedy told CNN.

As a young candidate, Kennedy has less money than his opponents, but he may have more technological know-how. Before running for Congress, Kennedy worked at MTV as a street team political reporter mixing new technology and traditional media to encourage the youth to participate in the 2008 election.

"I do not have any personal finances so [I] have to be more creative in outreach to communities and constituencies. Social media, if used creatively, can do just as an effective job," Kennedy said. "Foursquare is a new age populist tool. Today's world is all about fundraising and being in your office on the phone. I want to shake hands and listen out there and I want people to keep track of me as a populist candidate."

Dennis Crowley, a co-founder of Foursquare, said he is not surprised that candidates are using it to promote their campaigns. "It is a way to plant a flag in the ground," he said.

Crowley told CNN that Foursquare was designed by him and his friends "to go out and get drinks on a Thursday night, send a check in and have the party go from two people to five people." After those five people "check in" others would see where friends were congregating and stop by. "Your Thursday just became more fun," Crowley said. He wanted to gather a crowd together for drinks. Kennedy wants to gather a crowd together to discuss politics.

It is a little "weird" that people can follow a candidate's every move, Kennedy admits. But he said it makes him stay active. "If I say I am going to be out there representing people this holds me to account. I can't hide with this tool." Kennedy said he was recently contacted by someone who saw he had checked in down the road and wanted to know why the candidate did not stop by his group. A visit was quickly arranged.

While Kennedy is the only candidate using Foursquare, others are quickly signing up. Lisa Johnston is going to be running for the Democratic Senate nomination in Kansas. She has not yet officially announced her candidacy nor finished her official Web site. But Monday Johnston's campaign contacted Foursquare. "I thought that would be a great platform for Lisa to connect with people and connect with younger voters," said Kyle Johnston, who is acting as her campaign director.

Kennedy said he believes Foursquare has interesting implications in local communities as well. "Say I am a police chief," he said. "People want to know where their local police officer was, they could follow him on Foursquare." Last week, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn started checking in when she attended meetings at the Metro Transportation Authority and New York City Hall.

Foursquare is still a new tool, but finding its niche in public transparency and accountability. "All politics is local and this is an effective tool for that," Kennedy said.

Related on CNN Money: Location is Everything
Follow CNN's Eric Kuhn on Twitter @KuhnCNN

Filed under: Foursquare • Social Media
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Whatever

    Too much big brother. These social network sites are nothing but a tracking mechanism for the government to find you an know every little thing about you.

    March 31, 2010 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  2. Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD

    Yes, all politics are local and since foursquare is a hyper-local application, it would make sense for politicians to use the too.That, combined with its ease of us by both consumers and businesses, make foursquare is allowing for phenomenal growth following tremendous success at South By South West.

    foursquare has set a goal of 1 million users by April 16, which is Foursquare Day. If they continue to grow at this pace. They will make it.

    Of course, there are still significant issues to work out, not the least of which is monitization, competition and privacy. But right now the momentum is on their side.

    March 31, 2010 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  3. Noah Gentry

    So, this is basically google latitude?

    March 31, 2010 10:21 am at 10:21 am |