Restaurant Serves Up Foursquare Advice for Nonprofits

I've always liked Boloco, the burrito restaurant chain with 16 locations throughout New England. They have great, reasonably priced food, and, as a special bonus, are tops in giving back and social media. Boloco is active on Facebook with close to 4,000 "likes", and have over 3,000 followers on Twitter where the CEO himself, John Pepper, tweets for the company.

With their social media prowess it didn't surprise me that they'd jump into Foursquare in a big way.

Beginning May 1st, Boloco will launch a Foursquare Mayor Boloco Card. One for each of its 16 locations. The 4sq member who checks-in the most at each location becomes mayor gets the card. If they get ousted they need to hand the card over to the new mayor IN PERSON!

The Fousquare Mayor Boloco Cards don't have any perks connected with them right now beyond bragging rights, but Boloco plans to change that soon.

In a fun twist to the program, Boloco also plans to give Foursquare Mayor Boloco Cards to Mayors in four locations. Mayors Menino, Maher, Bouley and Kiss of Boston, Cambridge, Concord (NH) and Burlington (VT). They too will have to turn in their cards, but only if they lose their next election.

Regular readers know that I've written a lot about 4sq in the past few months. And with nonprofits just starting to check-in to 4sq, now is our chance to learn best practices from businesses like Boloco that are experimenting with the geo-location service.

This is what we can learn.

Size doesn't matter. Geo-location services are well suited for small and medium sized businesses. You don't have to be Walmart or Starbucks or Chili's to take advantage of Foursquare. Just as if you're a nonprofit you don't have to be Komen, St. Jude or Product RED.

Use the service "as is." You don't need to fuss with badges or work with the Foursquare API. Boloco is using the service as it's suppose to work. When a customer becomes mayor of a Boloco they just need to flash their crown to the cashier. Nonprofits should use Foursquare the same way, as it is. And rewarding mayors is just one of the ways to use 4sq.

Think about your demo. Boloco just didn't start using Foursquare for kicks. They were already on Facebook and Twitter and are obviously comfortable with social media. So are their customers, who are evenly split between men and women, range in age from 20 to 40 and are college educated. 4sq's current appeal in urban areas also syncs with most of Boloco's locations. Does Foursquare make sense for your nonprofit? If your cause represents retired dairy farmers from an office in a small town in upstate New York, probably not.

In part two, which I'll post next week, I'll discuss how you can package Boloco's Foursquare program into a cause marketing promotion you can shop to businesses in your area.

Boloco has served up a great example for nonprofits of how to use the geo-location service. Like their delicious burritos, it's a meal worth lingering over.