FourSquare Mayor to be Mayor of Chicago?

It’s a fairly blatant publicity stunt, but so far it seems to be an effective one. Proximity, a digital marketing firm, has offered to get one lucky person onto the ballot for Mayor of Chicago. The place will go to whoever checks in most often to a location they’ve set up in FourSquare. (The person most frequently checking in to one location in FourSquare is known as the “mayor” for that location).

The location Proximity have set up is called “City of Chicago – Mayoral HQ”, and they have promised to provide a team and marketing to get the FourSquare “mayor” onto the real-life ballot.

This isn’t so much a demonstration of the power of social media in politics – because the candidate will be backed by a real-world campaign to get on the ballot. But it’s a very effective use of social media to garner publicity for a cause. Hard to see it as much more than a gimmick. It’s newsworthy because – well, someone’s offered a big prize for a new competition. The headlines would have been just as big if they’d offered the prize in a raffle.

There is an interesting question of how this affects democracy, though. Is it publicising politics in a way that will engage the young to vote? Is it trivialising politics? Is it a worrying sign that power is up for sale to large companies with big budgets?

Or is it just an old, old game played on a new board?

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