Spaces...the final frontier

Superswarm badge

Spaces...the final frontier1

IT | 8 Nov 2010

A new social phenomenon is here. A tweet or a poke are no longer enough to satisfy the social masses - they need Spaces and Superswarms. Rob Dyson explains why your charity needs them too.

Spaces...the final frontier.

Well not exactly, but location-based social media is a growing area in which to spread awareness of our charities’ work. Foursquare, Gowalla, and Facebook Places are probably the market leaders right now; all allow you to alert your friends to your current location using your mobile phone’s signal and tag, rate and in some cases photograph things of interest for others to see.

Foursquare and Gowalla both offer in-game incentives to ‘check in’ to places, such as ‘badges’ and ‘mayorships’ for repeat visits. Increasingly, restaurateurs and bar owners are using the games to reward customers (for example, the ‘mayor’ of a bar may get discounts and free drinks).

Charities such as Action for Children, British Red Cross, and Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research are all using Foursquare – the latter has been using the network in the same way as Twitter to post updates to followers. However, I’d suggest Card Aid are ahead of the pack right now; adding ‘tips’ around the City, so that when you ‘check-in’ somewhere, you are alerted to a nearby outlet where you can pop in and buy charity cards. Nice.

In the US, Republican politicians adopted a toolkit put together by Gowalla to persuade constituents to attend events. By checking in to rally venues, supporters win candidate-branded ‘passport stamps’ – thus using competitive game-play as a way of guaranteeing turnout. Foursquare rewards users for gathering fellow game-users in one place. So last month the Jewel bar in London was the first place in England to hold a special event to get over 250 people all ‘checking in’ at the same time – users were all rewarded with a ‘Superswarm’ badge. This badge is ‘worn’ on your profile, and gives you credibility among the game community. Foursquare has now created ‘Superduper Swarm’ and ‘Epic Swarm’ badges, open to unlock if you check in with 500 or 1,000 other gameplayers respectively!

The challenge to charities then, is to harness these games in creative ways to motivate and inspire our supporters. Perhaps location-media might be used to encourage people to a fundraising event, or a campaign? Perhaps, like Card Aid, you could leave ‘virtual crumbs’ around towns – or reward followers for ‘checking-in’ to charity shops, or when volunteering? These are all viral tools – and so will alert their friends (and yours) to their activity too in their newsfeeds (a bit like Facebook).

So if the world’s your oyster, where will you turn up – and who will join you? Until next time, this is Rob, ‘checking-out’ for now... 


Howard Lake
Fundraising UK Ltd
10 Nov 2010

Thanks Rob. I liked CardAid's use of Foursquare too.

I think the value of these location-based tools is that they can be used in so many ways: they offer so much more than the 'check-in', including:

* loyalty programme (and access to that data for the venue owner)

* competitive game

* social network (of course)

* collecting (badges etc)

* supporter recruitment tool

* response device e.g. checking in to a fundraising poster

And these tools and opportunities are available now: it's not a case of keeping a watching brief on something that might develop in a year or two. 26+ million people (ie. donors, supporters, beneficiaries etc) in the UK are reminded of Places everytime they login to Facebook.

See you soon at a swarm no doubt.


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