Branding UM-Flint’s Presence on Foursquare

It’s been a long road, and we haven’t yet reached the end. But the University of Michigan-Flint is finally on its way to having a branded presence on Foursquare.

It wasn’t long ago that Foursquare began partnering with colleges and universities by offering a way for students to connect through the location-based application. A small group of universities was initially selected to be part of the new program. The result? Branded pages for colleges and universities on Foursquare. Beautiful.

Some examples from this pilot group include Duke University, Texas Tech University, and the University of Michigan. Take a look at this example from Texas Tech.

Texas Tech on Foursquare

A few of the benefits of a branded page are evident here. Note the header at the top, the information and supplemental links on the right, and the uniformity in the venue descriptions and titles. It’s not obvious in this screen shot, but nearly 4,000 Foursquare users are following Texas Tech. Clearly, they’re doing something right.

In August 2010, I spoke with Lisa Du Bois Low, Associate Director, Digital Communications & Emerging Media at Texas Tech University. She encouraged me to do as much as I could until UM-Flint was able to take advantage of the new university program. First, create an account for UM-Flint. Second, seek out UM-Flint venues and claim ownership of them. Once these venues were claimed, we would be able to combine duplicates, edit details, add tips, access analytics, and more. I was excited to jump in.

Getting Started

Immediately, I created a Foursquare account for UM-Flint. I searched for already-existing venues, and was surprised to find that so many had been created by Foursquare users. The list included:

  • UM-Flint Murchie Science Building
  • UM-Flint William S. White Building
  • UM-Flint French Hall
  • UM-Flint First Street Residence Hall
  • UM-Flint Harrison Street Parking Structure
  • UM-Flint Theatre
  • UM-Flint Library
  • UM-Flint Pavillion (UPAV)
  • UM-Flint University Center (UCEN)
  • UM-Flint Recreation Center (REC)
  • UM-Flint Student Loft (UCEN)
  • UM-Flint Hubbard Bldg.
  • University Of Michigan – Flint UCEN
  • University of Michigan Flint – French Hall
  • University of Michigan-Flint Recreation Center
  • University of Michigan-Flint
  • University of Michigan-Flint
  • University Of Michigan-flint Pavilion

If you’ve noticed duplication, misspellings, and typing errors, you are not alone. The desire to combine and correct this information became a huge motivator in itself.

Round One

On August 16, after my first attempt to claim all of UM-Flint’s venues on Foursquare, I followed up with an email to [email protected]. Lisa and others had suggested that a follow-up email might help the process along. I asked what the average time for claim approval was, and when UM-Flint might be able to take part in the university program.

The response, albeit prompt (I received it the same day), was not incredibly clear.

In regards to the branded page, we are currently working on a self-service solution in response to many similar requests, but we have not yet rolled that out. Stay tuned for more info from the team on the foursquare blog in the near future:

So what was the time frame for my claims to be processed? And when would this self-service option become available? Uncertain and dismayed that Foursquare had broken up with me, I put the project aside and began waiting for my claim approval.

Round Two

In early November, I decided it was time to revisit my Foursquare venue claims. This time, I enlisted the help of Paige Plant, who submitted new claim requests for all of the same venues. She did not follow up with an email to Foursquare, but did receive the following auto-response.

Thank you so much for claiming your role as the manager/owner of University of Michigan-Flint!

Our team will verify the information you provided and will get back to you soon. We are working through a very large request queue, and processing all of them as quickly as we can. Once we approve your claim, you’ll be able to make any specials you’ve created live for your customers.

If you haven’t already created your first special, you can do so from the Add Special page:

If you have created a special, our team will review it as soon as we confirm that you manage University of Michigan-Flint.

Stay tuned for an email from our team shortly. In the meantime, please send any questions or suggestions to [email protected]


– team foursquare

Sadly, the email from their team never arrived. When I felt we’d waited long enough, I reached out to my higher education networks on Twitter (#eduweb and #heweb). Encouragement came from J.D. Ross, Director of New Media at Hamilton College, and Matt Thieleman, Marketing Associate at U-M’s Ross School of Business. Both suggested I email Foursquare, repeatedly if necessary. Persistence, it turned out, was key.

Round Three

On December 6, Paige and I were back at it. This time we opted for a bulk claim, and we followed up with an email to bizhelp. When we received a response the very next day, we were cautiously optimistic. Foursquare was asking us for our user ID. That was all. If that’s all they needed, were we close?

Wait for it.

Within hours, our claims were approved! We couldn’t believe it! Instantly, we were able to edit venue information and view analytics. Our wait was finally over–at least for the first step in branding our university on Foursquare.

We’ve Won the Battle, but What About the War?

Our ultimate goal of branding UM-Flint’s presence on Foursquare seems to be within our grasp. We have no way of knowing, however, when we might get there. When we received notification of our claim approval, Paige emailed bizhelp again and asked how we should proceed. She was directed to a waiting-list form. It should be noted that I submitted this form in August when I began my quest, but Paige submitted the form again. However, this time Paige was directed to contact bizhelp when she submitted the form so that they might “expedite the process.” That has to be a good sign, right?

So we wait. Again. Our form has been submitted. A follow-up email has been sent. We will soon begin strategizing  how to best use the capabilities we now have with Foursquare.

In the meantime, I find myself wondering how long it will be before we hear from Foursquare again. Surely, their form’s disclaimer rings true for web professionals: “We sadly don’t have enough people to build pages for all universities…” I imagine the demand for branding services must be overwhelming. I just wish that the timeline was outlined more clearly, and that response rate was more consistent. From what I’ve gathered, it seems that the squeaky university wheel gets the Foursquare oil.

Alaina Wiens
New Media Communications Specialist