STILLWATER — Burns Hargis is the president of Oklahoma State University, but starting this week, anyone with a smartphone can be the mayor.
OSU launched its branded page this week on Foursquare, a location-based social media application. University officials say the application gives them another way to engage with students, faculty, staff and anyone else on campus.
Having a presence on the application allows OSU to create lists of campus so-called venues — or locations — where Foursquare users can check in. One of those lists, a series of Hargis' favorite places on campus, includes Edmon Low Library, OSU's Student Union and Old Central, said Megan Horton, OSU's manager of Web and social initiatives.
The page also includes special promotions for venue mayors — users who check in at those locations most frequently. For example, she said, the mayor of Edmon Low Library would have access to a special study area and a reserved laptop, while the mayor of the Student Union would receive a discount on OSU-branded merchandise.
The university also will use the application to promote campus events. For example, Horton said, the university created a Foursquare event for Tuesday night's speech by NBA
“It will give users a way to check in at places and see who else has been there,” she said.
OSU isn't the first university to launch a branded page. The University of Oklahoma launched a similar site last year. Erin Yarbrough, OU's director of Web communications, said the app has proved a useful tool for connecting with students, fans and alumni.
In the past, most of OU's social media presence targeted alumni and prospective students, Yarbrough said. Foursquare gave the university a way to engage people who were already on campus — current students, alumni who come back to campus on game days and parents who are in town for a visit, she said.
OU and OSU aren't alone. More than 500 colleges and universities worldwide are using the application in one capacity or another, said Anna Frenkel, the manager of the company's Foursquare for Universities program.
Foursquare rolled out the program after seeing a large and growing number of users on college campuses, Frenkel said. Campuses tend to be high-
“We were kind of amazed with how the program took off,” she said.
By partnering with universities, Foursquare allows schools to take more ownership of their online presences, Frenkel said.
Before those partnerships, user-generated check-in venues already were scattered around college campuses — a restroom in OSU's Morrill Hall, for example, was marked as a venue until recently. By bringing universities into the process, Frenkel said, it allows the schools to take greater control over the process.
Universities have put the program to use in a variety of ways, she said. Some schools have created welcome lists that are designed to show incoming freshmen where to pick up their books and where a few key campus buildings are. Others might include a list of game day hot spots, she said, while others might point out study areas during midterms or finals week.
Frenkel said she's pleased at how schools have embraced the application. Today, nearly all universities have a presence on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Foursquare is simply a natural extension of that trend, she said.
“It's a tool that students are using on a daily basis,” she said.