Monthly Archives: April 2011

Finding a place for your charity on Foursquare

If you read any articles at the turn of the year on predicted technology trends for 2011 you’d have probably seen predictions that this would be the year of location-based social networking.

Platform such as Gowalla, Google Latitude and Foursquare, as well as applications on Twitter and Facebook, allow users to “check-in” to specific locations, leave tips, claim bragging rights, let friends know where they are etc.

Nearly half way through the year, location-based social networking is yet to grab the public consciousness in the way Twitter or Facebook has in recent years, and penetration is still comparatively low.

However, there’s no doubt that the growth of these platforms is impressive – and so is the potential.

Charities are already using social networking as an important engagement tool, but at present there is little being done using location-based platforms.

Retailer Marks and Spencer has been raising money for Breakthrough Breast Cancer through a Foursquare promotion which gives £1 for each of the first 25,000 people who checks in at one of their stores, and there have been a number of other corporate uses which support charities.

But what opportunities are there for charities themselves to use location-based platforms?

Suggested uses for loc-social

Taking Foursquare as an example, the possibilities include:

Location-based charities are the most obvious candidates for using Foursquare. This can mean any charity that has a property which engages commercially with the public – from heritage and conservation charities with multiple properties and millions of visitors, to the humble charity shop.

Encourage visitors and customers to log-in by making offers available via Foursquare. For instance, free entry for the current Mayor, or random “lucky-dip” discounts for people checking in (even if it’s just a free cup of tea!)

Like all social media, it’s the social element that matters. Users’ friends see where they are checking in – the more people checking in at your charity, the more awareness there is.

In a similar vein, encourage people to leave tips. Leaving tips on a place where you have checked in is one of the most exciting elements of Foursquare. At the moment, the potential of this seems to have been overlooked, and its often hard to find many, or even any, tips left at locations.

However, the tips facility has enormous potential. Think of it as a real-world search engine and review platform. People who are new to an area check in and can see not only what there is nearby (restaurants, shops, attractions, pubs etc) but what people actually think of them.

Again, for location-based charities this has a lot of potential – whether that’s letting people know what they can do at your visitor centre, how good the cakes are in your tea-shop, or even that your charity shop often has a great collections of children’s books.

Encourage your users to leave tips – again, prizes or discounts for tippers can be an effective encouragement.

Leaving “Easter Eggs” is another approach – particularly for location-based charities which have large visitor centres and/or multiple locations.

The Easter Egg concept comes from video games – where users can unlock surprise extra levels by finding hidden interactions in the game.

Allowing users to unlock benefits by checking in from different locations can be a great way to get them to visit your whole centre, make repeat visits or visit more than one location – maybe pop into your visitor shop or cafe, or use other facilities that might have passed them by.

Tie-ins with business also have great potential for fundraising, as shown by Marks and Spencer. For this, you don’t even need to be location-based – the business provides the location.

Larger businesses are always keen to show their charity credentials – and a tie-up like this has the double benefit of positive business PR and encouraging extra custom, particularly where the retailer ties the fundraising in with offers of its own to shoppers.

It doesn’t have to be major retailers either, for location-based charities which pull in visitors reciprocal arrangements with local cafes, restaurants hotels etc can also work. For instance, if a visitor checks in to both your charity and a local restaurant, the restaurant gives a proportion of the customer spend to the charity.

You can also get businesses to promote you by adding a visit to you to their tips. The UK Foreign Office does this to raise awareness of its embassy service when people check in to airports, major tourist venue and hotspots around the world. In return, you can leave a reciprocal tip.

These are just a few suggestions for using Foursquare (and apply to other location-based services equally). I’d be interested to hear from any charities out there who are using these services to see what ideas you’ve had and what the results have been.