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April 12, 2011

Foursquare Day in BTV? Bust Out the Ticker Tape!

Hear ye, hear ye! Be it proclaimed that April 16, in the year of our Lord Two Thousand Eleven, is officially Foursquare Day in Burlington, as decreed by our great and good City Council. Huzzah! In honor of this great occasion, all citizens of Burlington are asked — nay, required — to sign up for this revolutionary social media network and start checking in posthaste to collect useless badges and meaningless municipal titles. 

Thanks to city councilors Ed Adrian, Joan Shannon, Karen Paul and Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, who proposed the Foursquare Day resolution, April 16 will live in our collective memory as the day Burlington sold out to the location-based social networking hype.

Now, you might be under the notion that you elected city councilors to actually, you know, legislate stuff. But I can assure you that's not the case. Clearly, those whom you elected have determined that, rather than fix the city's problems, a better use of their time would be drafting, pitching and passing resolutions about a social medium that seems all but irrelevant in Burlington.

Apparently, the Burlington City Council is not alone in its championing of Foursquare, the social media site that allows users to check in to various venues, amass virtual merit badges, get crowned "mayor" of a location and earn occasional deals. (To read about Vermont's Foursquare super mayors, click here.) According to the resolution, "a growing number of other cities in the United States" have designated April 16 Foursquare Day. At least we can take comfort in the knowledge that it wasn't our idea. 

What I'm wondering is what Foursquare Day will look like. Will there be a parade of fake mayors high-stepping down Church Street? How about a smartphone lightshow set to the tune of a John Phillip Sousa march? Will there at least be free candy? Fingers crossed. 

In order to understand this whole Foursquare Day more clearly, it might help to see the resolution. For your reading pleasure: 

Resolution Relating to



 In the year Two Thousand Eleven Resolved by the City Council of the City of Burlington, as follows:

            WHEREAS Burlington was recently recognized by Men’s Health Magazine as the 13th most socially networked city in the United States (thereby receiving an A- grade) based on social media usage per capita and traffic on social media sites;

             WHEREAS despite this excellent grade, Burlingtonians can strive for a grade of A+ and break  into the top five most socially networked cities which are Washington, DC, Atlanta, Denver, Minneapolis and Seattle; 

             WHEREAS the City of Burlington through its various departments has already started to engage in social media networking through the social network known as Twitter by sending tweets through user names such as @BTVDPW (Public Works) @BPDVT (Police); and @BURLCITYARTS;

             WHEREAS Foursquare is an emerging social media network that through Twitter helps residents and visitors locate and enjoy merchandise, restaurants and venues, thereby contributing to growth in the business community and increasing consumption of locally grown and owned businesses;

             WHEREAS, any Foursquare user can become the “mayor” of a location based on patronage of that location and it is thus appropriate that the City Council (that as a body has several individual councilors who are known to utilize social media from time to time) and the Mayor of the City of Burlington, on behalf of the many Foursquare “mayors,” join the growing number of other cities in the United States that have designated April 16, 2011, “Foursquare Day”;

            WHEREAS Burlington wishes to foster the growth of social media and its ability to connect individuals and government thereby better serving the people and businesses that continually help to place Burlington at the top of many quality of life lists;

             WHEREAS Foursquare can be used to increase support for our local businesses and help the Burlington Foursquare community engage the myriad of social, economic and cultural opportunities that abound in our fair City;           

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT April 16, 2011, is hereby proclaimed “Foursquare Day” in Burlington

Let's examine the highlighted bits: 

1. an A- grade — In my world, an A- is pretty damn good. Not total mastery, but pretty close. Stop being a grade snob, Burlington.

2. Burlingtonians can strive for a grade of A+ — Unattainable. There's no such thing as perfection.  

3. ...various departments have already started to engage in social media networking through the social network known as Twitter — Um, I thought this was about Foursquare. Twitter's not the same thing.  

4. Foursquare is an emerging social media network that through Twitter... — Dear city councilors, Foursquare isn't just something that can be used through Twitter. Again, the two networks are not the same thing. Foursquare is its own app independent of Twitter, but can be set up to send out updates through Twitter, as well as Facebook. 

5. ...growth in the business community and increasing consumption of locally grown and owned businesses — I'd like to see some empirical data on this. Does Foursquare really do this? Or is this just wishful thinking?

6. ...can become the “mayor” of a location based on patronage of that location... — Which is why Ed Adrian is "mayor" of city hall — because he checks in there more than anyone else. Foursquare is the closest some people will ever get to being real mayors. 

Picture 2

7.  ...the City Council (that as a body has several individual councilors who are known to utilize social media from time to time)... — Why, Councilor Adrian has been known to use social media. You know, to take pictures of citizens at City Council meetings, post the photos on Twitter and ask if anyone knows who the people are. Glad to know the residents of this fair city have his full attention.

8. ...Burlington Foursquare community engage the myriad of social, economic and cultural opportunities... — this is just puzzling. Can't you just do that stuff yourself without a smartphone? How did people find out where to go and what to do in the olden days? And there's no "of" after myriad.

Personally, I'd like to see a LinkedIn Day in Burlington. Then maybe all the people who signed up for this redheaded stepchild of social networks and now can't quite figure out what its purpose is can get an answer or two. 

What other fake holidays would you like to see instituted in Burlington?

Foursquare's growth has leveled off, and checkins per user are declining. Glad to see VT remaining firmly behind the curve.

"redheaded stepchild of social networks"

Linkedin's user base of over 100 million (nearly 17x that of foursquare) - most of whom actually do know what the site's for - might disagree with that characterization.

Aha, and now it all comes clear as to how Kiss and Leopold managed to steal 17+Mil right out from under the collective nose of the City Council.

Hi Lauren,

Thanks for writing about Foursquare Day.

I wanted to commend the City Council for sponsoring this proclamation. It is my understanding that there was no or little discussion at last night's city council meeting as there was no opposition.

As a business owner and employer in Burlington, I can attest that social media tools like Foursquare are important. These tools offer low or no cost ways for people to effectively market their businesses to consumers who use mobile devices. Foursquare is a great way to build brand awareness and loyalty. And a growing number of VT businesses are understanding that - as are their customers. In fact, location based marketing is just getting started (see SxSWi educational sessions for more info).

Foursquare day was a great success for those who participated last year, and a good number of businesses have already signed up to participate again this year. (you can see info here:

I see this proclamation as a showing of support by the city council of local business. I can also attest that this proclamation took very little of Counselor Adrian's time, thus not taking him away from important issues.

I hope you'll join us taking advantage of some of the great promotions local businesses are putting together to celebrate this "holiday".


Isn't their a rule about advertising?

Hi Lauren,

I'm a Foursquare Day organizer myself so I wanted to chime in here. Foursquare Day is about celebrating local businesses. Many cities around the world are posting lists of businesses who are participating and are encouraging people to go out and patronize those businesses as part of the Foursquare Day experience. Getting people to go out and put money into the local economy sounds like a win for the city to me! This is one of the main drivers behind the many cities that have proclaimed 4/16 as Foursquare Day. Think of it like First Night parties on New Years Eve - Foursquare Day gets people to go out and have a day or night on the town, stimulating the local economy.

Speaking of local businesses, here's a selection of local businesses that are participating in Foursquare Day in Burlington this year:

August First is donating $4 per checkin on 4/16 to King Street Center

Handy's lunch is offering $1.50 off a 2 eggs special with a checkin. They also offer 25% off on every 5th checkin for when you visit (and not just on 4/16).

156 Bistro offers free wings or free spin art dip for the mayor (and not just on 4/16).

Bluebird Tavern, Small Dog Electronics and Magnolia Bistro are donating gift certificates for a drawing at the Foursquare Day Party at Magnolia Bistro.

Last year there was local businesses involved too - check it out:

I hope this has clarified things in terms of the value of foursquare and Foursquare Day to the city of Burlington.

I hereby declare sour grapes in this article. No doubt there are myriad ridiculous proclamations in every city across the country. This one isn't just about a silly little smart phone app, but how such tools can bring more of a sense of community and comraderie for businesses and the people that patronize them. Totally looking forward to a ridiculous party in honor of National Foursquare Day this Saturday night at Magnolia. Thanks Councilor Adrian for the few seconds of props.

Oh, shoot. I thought the headline meant that we would all get to go out and play four-square:

It's a pretty fun game, with very little "gear" required, whereas this website thing sounds a little contrived.

How about recognizing a local business that is kicking Four Square's be-hind in Vermont... Front Porch Forum. Last I saw half of Burlington participates. Resolute that, City Council!

I feel so much closer to the community now that the City Council passed this resolution. Cumbya my lord, cumbya...

Personally I was hoping for Myspace Day. We could all take photos of ourselves in mirrors (while looking away from the camera, of course) and wear the most hideous, clashing outfits in history. Preferably with sparkles, and animated unicorns.

Thanks to all the folks for your positive and forward moving support in respect to social media and its interface with Burlington government and politics.  Especially Nicole Ravlin, Lara Dickson (DeepDish) and Walter Elly who individually and collectively are far more capable social media advocates than I could possibly hope to be.  In addition, thanks to Gahlord Dewald for explaining one of the many values of FourSquare.

We all decide to do various and sundry things within the realm of our occupational (or quasi-occupational) obligations. 

I for one am thankful to have been recognized by Shay Totten as being at the forefront of holding the Kiss Administration accountable for the way it handled Burlington Telecom's finances -

I also appreciate the tripartisian support of the FourSquare Day co-sponsors Joan Shannon, Karen Paul and Emma Mulvaney-Stanak as you noted above and was happy to work with the Mayor in making this a unanimous and quickly approved vote.

I also took to heart Cathy Resmer's thoughts on elected officials using Twitter to communicate with constituents -  And if I can help promote local business and interest in Burlington even a little, I am happy to be able to lend a hand.

Like Lauren sometimes I work on "big" things that are of tremendous import to the community. And other times things that may be merely fun or entertaining - 

I'm not perfect, but just trying to do the best I can with what I have.  And hey if the highest political station I get to obtain in life is Mayor of Champlain Chocolates I will consider that a pretty sweet deal.

As a final point, is there no irony in the fact that the very next Blurt that appeared after this one has to do with the Vermont Legislature recognizing the South End Art District (SEBA). I mean, really with a looming $175 Million budget deficit, you wonder how they find the time for the pomp and circumstance. 


There ought to be a rule about using "their" where you should use "there".

Yet again Lauren Ober takes pains to remind us of her party pooper status. Man, she's good at this "raining on parades" thing. Oh, especially if something is related to pop culture! Oh lordy, get that stick ready, honey; mud season is providing just the right environment for you.

No matter how cynical you get, it's never enough to keep up.

Jane Wagner

Aw lighten up BTV, since when is a game that drives customers into a business a sell-out? BTV supports small business and this is a great way for them to use social marketing to their advantage for a super low cost. I'm proud of BTV and will be checking in wherever I can.

Lori Roberts
Mayor of KSV

Bill Keough is drafting a "Farmville Day" resolution as we speak. That's the rumor I'm starting, anyway.

A blog post that is right on, Lauren!

No surprise that Foursquare fans are lining up to chastise you for daring to think that life doesn't/shouldn't revolve around a virtual flavor of the week - accessible only to the privileged and priority-disabled.

The only positive development was seeing Ed Adrian's post admitting he's not perfect. If Seven Days has a Daisies category for Understatement of the Year, that has my vote. Let's hope that his esteemed achievement as Mayor of Champlain Chocolates is the highest office he holds in Burlington.

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