Wouldn't it be cool if…

So this morning I took off my farming and food hats to put on my rural booster beanie under my techno-geek helmet and did a little research into a new social media craze that I’ve seen showing up via Twitter in the last few months.

The social media tool that is heading toward this year’s crown as coolest new service is Foursquare, and while it’s only being used in major cities around the globe right now, I can see great possibilities for its use right here in good ol’ SoDak.

The idea behind Foursquare is that it allows users to “check in” at various locations in their city.  The game aspect of it involves getting “points” for number of check-ins, allowing the user to move up through the ranks from “newbie” to “mayor” of a particular location, and sometimes those ranks come with deals from participating businesses.

Foursquare is useful for city residents and travelers alike in that it allows users to share information about hotspots, little-known destinations, great menu items at restaurants and cafes–you get the picture.  A user who checks in at a new eatery can then get tips about the venue’s specialities, perks, and quirks from others who’ve come before.

Now, I know that South Dakota isn’t the place that pops in mind when free associating on the term “early adopters.”  But have you ever been traveling in a rural state (even your own) and wondered what that small town off the highway (or off the beaten path) has to offer in terms of services, eateries, etc.?

Sure, you can surf the web from your iPhone or Blackberry (if you have one) for these attractions in larger towns and cities, but wouldn’t it be cool if you could get a tip about a little-known cafe with the best burgers ever in, say, Elkton?

Wouldn’t it be nice if travelers who’d come before you (and residents, too) could build and use an app that could spur business for somebody besides the Golden Arches, which uses its enormous roadside signs as a way to lure in hungry travelers who’ve no idea what other options a community holds?

A social media tool that could build an archive of hints and tips like this for rural communities across a rural state could be invaluable for spurring tourism and building local economies.

Right now, Foursquare is only centered in larger cities (yes, larger than Sioux Falls or Rapid).  But I can’t help dreaming and scheming about what this kind of social media could do on a more rural scale for keeping small businesses and rural communities humming.

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