I’m thrilled to break some insider news in the field of social media and museums (two of my favourite things). Palazzo Strozzi is the first museum in Florence to be officially on Foursquare, and the only one in Italy to currently reward users with a special. The very first Italian museum to claim its venue and offer a special was actually the MART in Rovereto, but they currently do not have a special available.

For those of you not familiar with Foursquare, it’s a location-based social network with which users “check in” to places on the system and share their location with their friends both on Foursquare and on other social networks. The driving factors in this gamified system are collecting points, badges, mayorships (being the person who checks in the most at a place), tips from others, and special offers. Locations are either automatically “in” the Foursquare system or are added by users, but to add a special, the venue owner must first “claim” it online. You can tell if a venue has been claimed if you look at it via browser and see that there is a website link and description available. Businesses, such as bars and restaurants, can reward customers who check in or are the mayor at their location by giving something in return – something free, a discount, a membership, etc.

Museums in the States have been quick to catch on to the possibility of rewarding return visitors with this system, but Italian arts institutions have lagged behind, likely because many are state-run. However, the MART, always very ahead of things when it comes to social media, already claimed their venue in late 2010, permitting them to add a special (three checkins got you a free ticket). Perhaps because at that time there were not many Italian users of Foursquare, the museum chose to not continue with the special. Rather, their staff curates the venue’s and city’s tips while they focus on other social networks (and do an exemplary job at it, too).

Readers of this blog already know that Palazzo Strozzi is my favourite hangout in this city. Working as social media project manager at the communications agency Flod, I was interested in testing out the process of claiming a venue and setting up a special… but I needed a client to test it on. I offered this to the team at Palazzo Strozzi, who was immediately interested in the potential of this niche social network in the context of museums. Flod thus offered Palazzo Strozzi the consultancy and service necessary to get a Foursquare special online and functioning. All the staff at the museum is now aware of the location-based application and their participation in it.

Being on Foursquare is right in line with Strozzi’s social approach to the museum visit, as well as with the current offerings, exhibits on the youth of Picasso, Miro and Dali, and in the Strozzina, Virtual Identities which is about how we construct ourselves on social networks (see my review). Visitors frequently check in at Palazzo Strozzi (on average two per day) and share their experiences on social networks; now the Florentine institution wants to reward loyal museum-goers. People who check in at Palazzo Strozzi using Foursquare will now unlock a Special Offer which, by showing this screen at the ticket office, entitles them to a 2×1 ticket for the current exhibits. The museum hopes that by encouraging visitors to bring a friend to the museum for free, they will have an extended social experience, both online and in person. You can see Palazzo Strozzi’s special offer on Foursquare via browser, or check in and check it out in person!

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