University Introduces Foursquare Collegiate Badges

by Chris Silver Smith

Texas A&M University has just launched the Collegiate Badge program on Foursquare, and since I was in College Station earlier last week for a family celebration, I thought I’d check it out.

Foursquare's Collegiate Badges at Texas A&M University

I feel a little shiver of pride that my alma mater is the third university after Harvard and Stanford to launch an official partnership with Foursquare, starting back in the summer of 2010! A&M’s Foursquare integration was a student-initiated integration, according to A&M’s director of social media and marketing programs, Diane C. McDonald.

Michael Green, TAMU StudentThe student who spearheaded the effort was Michael Green, a visualization studies major who has also worked as one of the campus’s tour guides. This pleases me even more, since the Department of Visualization studies is within the College of Architecture where I got my degree way back when. (Incidentally, someone should offer him a social media job for when he graduates later this year – I see he’s also posted about geocaching at A&M as well, and here he is on Twitter… he tells me that he’s open to SM work, and has become very interested in this side of online marketing.)

Green also blogged about the Foursquare integration, saying:

“For the first time, technology is pushing people AWAY from the computer and out into the world!”

And, he goes on to explain why it could be useful to the university and new students:

“It can be a powerful tool in your pocket. Let’s say you are a new student at Texas A&M. If you have Foursquare, you can check into every building on campus and read the tips people have left.  A&M is now fully integrated with Foursquare and soon will have its own official Foursquare page with tips full of history, fun facts, traditions, and little known activities you might have never known about. So now this Fish knows where all of their classes are, and learned some Aggie facts along the way.”

There are a handful of Collegiate Badges on Foursquare:

  • Campus Explorer” for checking in at ten different campus locations;
  • Munchies” for checking in at five different campus dining halls;
  • Smells Like Team Spirit” for checking into five different sports venues;
  • Bookworm Bender” for visiting a library after midnight;
  • Quad Squatter” for ten check-ins at the quad or commons area;

I first tried out checking into the Memorial Student Center, and had no problem. There were more locations for checkin than I really anticipated. I next checked-in at the Albritton Bell Tower, one of the main campus landmarks.

One mildly annoying thing is that a lot of the campus buildings and locations are jumbled together in Foursquare, location-wise. This is because some combo of geolocation methods used by my carrier, Verizon Wireless, and Google’s Android (also, my personal phone settings reduce the accuracy some as well), and Foursquare make it so that they’re less-accurate in calculating users’ locations. Still, I was hopeful that they’d be able to pinpoint my locations better, or list the nearest building first — instead, I had to scroll through more campus locations in order to select each one that I was at. But, that’s mostly Foursquare’s Android app’s fault.

The one badge I was able to open up during my recent campus visit was the Bookworm badge — by checking-in at the Sterling C. Evans Library after midnight. Sorta odd to do that, since the library is typically closed after midnight, I believe, but I checked-in on the front porch.

The other hiccup with the service is that I’m not entirely sure that I am properly registered to be able to access the A&M-specific badges. The campus’s announcement of the service didn’t spell out that you apparently must be following their profile on Foursquare to be able to access the special badges, so perhaps I followed them after already checking into some of the locations. Also, Foursquare may have some small hiccup with this — although I’m following the TAMU profile, Foursquare doesn’t list any of the Partner badges for me. So, I may have only unlocked the generic Bookworm badge, rather than the A&M-specific one.

I most definitely checked-in at more than ten campus locations, and didn’t get the Campus Explorer badge, so I think that’s perhaps due to me not having followed the TAMU Foursquare profile until I’d already checked-in to some of the locations. I think I also checked-in at five different sports venues on campus, and didn’t get the Smells Like Team Spirit badge.

So, even for people who’ve been using Foursquare, the specialized badges may be challenging to compete for properly. Students more familiar with this variety of social media may have no problem, but alumni and visitors may struggle just a bit before getting it right.

However, there are always some hiccups when you’re on the leading edge of some new thing.

What’s important is that Texas A&M is one of a handful of universities which are unafraid of experimenting with new things in social media as well as other technological developments like this checkin service. Just as Michael Green stated, this has provided yet another way that people can come to know about the university — it’s a game combined with a virtual reality tour of the campus via cellphone. With a few hundred buildings on the grounds, navigating the university is quite challenging for newbies.

It also makes me giggle that the University of Texas is apparently not on the official list of universities participating with Foursquare’s Collegiate Badges program so far! UT is lagging behind Texas A&M in a number of key areas involving social media marketing. For instance, I pointed out back in August how they have failed to place their URL on their Facebook page’s wall, and they still have not added it! By contrast, Texas A&M University’s Facebook page includes this most basic element of online marketing.

You can chalk up A&M’s Foursquare integration as yet another place where they’ve outpaced the University of Texas.


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