The importance of being able to check in to events

Bravo, Foursquare.

Sometime less than a year ago, I was on a conference call the NHL had set up with a rep from Facebook and I specifically asked them for this very functionality for their Places product.

The response I got was less than enthusiastic and I truly walked away from that call feeling like this was a down the road feature that wasn’t important to the product.

Apparently, Foursquare sees value in it.

From TechCrunch: Foursquare Now Lets You Check In To Official Events.

Foursquare has hooked up with ESPN for sports events, for movie tickets and Songkick for concerts to populate its database with official events.

These partner events will offer users more check-in functionality like the ability to drill down into individual movies at a movie theatre and even the inclusion of realtime data like sports scores. Foursquare says that it plans on offering hundreds of thousands of “official” events at more than 50,000 venues in the next couple of months.

Our problem at the St. Pete Times Forum is that for hockey games we had most people checking into the venue but a few each game would check in to a ‘place’ called “Tampa Bay Lightning.” And for concerts, it got worse. Often a separate place was set up for an event like a Lady Gaga show.

Soon it seems, both venues and users will get what I asked Facebook for: A chance to check in to events under a particular place.

The reasons why this mattered to us at the Forum are pretty obvious. It was hard to run specials on just the venue itself.

What we needed was the ability to set up an event inside the venue that we could manage a one-time special offer for.

Up until now, Foursquare has been a good service for local businesses because it added value to return customers.

But when you run an events venue, return business isn’t the primary business you’re in. While the cross-over business is nice, when Justin Beiber is in town you’re really not selling directly to hockey fans.

So venue operators have needed to be able to treat each event on it’s own. And now, on Foursquare, the doors for adding value to the ‘check-in’ have opened for more than just the mom and pop shops.

UPDATE: I wrote this on the fly earlier today. One thing I meant to mention but failed to: this is a business model for Foursquare. Lots of companies will pay for the upsell service to manage their venue page.