Radio Shack Shows Nonprofits How to Succeed on Foursquare

Radio Shack reminds me of a lot of the local, scrappy nonprofits I work with. The Shack is big - nearly 4,500 company-operated stores - but it has a local feel to it. Maybe it's because you'll find them in local malls, strip malls and downtown business districts.

With competitors such as Best Buy, Walmart and, Radio Shack is certainly an underdog. It's like saying your competitors this holiday season are St. Jude Children's Research, The Salvation Army and Toys for Tots. Radio Shack knows what it's like to be constantly competing against the big guys to eke out a profit.

One area in which Radio Shack is winning big is on Foursquare. It started the summer of 2010 when Radio Shack joined the location-based service. It accelerated over the holidays that year with its Holiday Heroes campaign on Foursquare.

In just 60 days Radio Shack went from zero followers to 20,000.

Last spring, the chain announced that Foursquare customers spent three times more than regular customers.

Today, The Shack's Foursquare following has grown to 63,000. If last December's success is a yardstick, they'll recruit even more followers with their So Right holiday promotion this month. For each badge earned, RadioShack will donate $1 to LIVESTRONG, the cancer charity founded by Radio Shack spokesman Lance Armstrong.

But how can this be? Such success from a company who's CEO once admitted that he had no idea how the electronics store chain stayed in business. Now Radio Shack really sounds like a lot of the nonprofits I work with!

The good news is that nonprofits share more with Radio Shack than just my sympathies. Like The Shack's eclectic product mix that has somehow kept the chain in business, its Foursquare success is all about having the right mix of audience, location, marketing and good old fashioned DIY know-how.

Does your nonprofit have what it takes to be the next "Shack" on Foursquare?

Are your supporters inclined to use Foursquare? Don't be fooled into thinking that all those grandmothers you thought shopped at Radio Shack suddenly jumped onto Foursquare. It didn't happen. The Shack tapped into a natural, existing audience for the service: smartphone-toting Generation Yers that know more about apps than algebra. Radio Shack isn't quite the DIY electronics store it was when I was a kid. It sells a lot of phones now and attracts a younger crowd.

Does your nonprofit speak or cater to a younger crowd? Is your nonprofit more like than the Arthritis Foundation? You might be a natural for Foursquare. Think young and/or geeky.

Are you a Foursquare expert? Radio Shack prides itself on its knowledgeable salesforce. Not only can they match the right phone to your needs and budget, but they can show you how to download the Foursquare app and how to use it when you shop with them.

Are you active on Foursquare and know how to use it? Or are you as clueless about Foursquare as most people are? You need to be the expert so you can spread the news to your supporters.

Are you active on social media in general? Radio Shack just didn't sign up for Foursquare, they use everything, which supports their Foursquare efforts. The Shack has combined Foursquare with Twitter's Promoted Trends and positioned Facebook as its social epicenter. Foursquare is tagged on their blog, YouTube videos, e-mails and some of its Web campaigns.

Is your nonprofit already blogging, tweeting and Facebooking? Your nonprofit's social media strategy shouldn't begin and end with Foursquare. You need to have the whole package.

Are you focusing your Foursquare promotion on deals, specials and discounts? Radio Shack is, which explains why they're doing so well on Foursquare. They're not sharing "important dates in Shack history" on the service. They're offering "Check-in Specials" and "Newbie Specials" and special offers for mayors. It's all about saving dough (or, in the case of the So Right badge, helping a great cause).

You probably see the sense of offering a special on Foursquare if your nonprofit is a museum or historical site. But any nonprofit can have a special offer when it's tied to a cause marketing promotion. If you're working on a campaign with a chain of department stores in your area, offer shoppers a check-in special on Foursquare that includes a donation to your cause. You'll learn what The Shack learned: people love deals and will even embrace new technology to get them.

Are you spreading your net wide? Radio Shack isn't waiting for shoppers to come into their stores to check-in to Foursquare. Users of the service don't have to follow Radio Shack to be alerted of its special offers. If one of its stores is the closest available merchant deal on the platform, users will see a "Special Nearby" icon in the upper right-hand corner of their screen. When they click, offer details and the store's location take over the screen.

Are you tapping the foot traffic around your nonprofit? That's why they call Foursquare location-based marketing. The marketing happens where your supporters are.

Are you sure you can't afford Foursquare? Radio Shack loves Foursquare because it's FREE! Using the platform, creating specials and rewarding mayors costs nothing. Badges aren't free but you don't have to start with them.

What are you waiting for?

Is your nonprofit "The Shack" of the nonprofit world? I'd love to hear how you plan to use Foursquare in the coming new year!

Foursquare, Cause Marketing Find Home with Housing Charity

I love this cause marketing promotion from a UK housing charity that brings together eight Edinburgh thrift shops with the leading location-based service, Foursquare.

It capitalizes on a physical location. Shelter Scotland helps people with all sorts of housing problems from homelessness to poor living conditions. 16 percent of Shelter's annual donations come from its two dozen thrift shops throughout Scotland. Not all nonprofits are destinations for shoppers or visitors. But the ones that are should follow Shelter's lead and tap Foursquare, which just isn't for nonprofits that are cultural institutions and museums. What about thrift-store giant Goodwill or a busy historical attraction like the Freedom Trail in Boston? Foursquare should be part of their [cause] marketing too.

Shelter jumped in with both feet. They launched the program in eight stores to start and created a great video to educate supporters about the campaign and how to use Foursquare. Shelter isn't assuming anything. They're building a Foursquare promotion one user at a time and are not giving people a reason to say no (e.g. "I've never heard of Foursquare." "I don't know how to use it.")

Shelter also developed real benefits for users that regularly checked-in to their stores. They’re offering a buy two, get one free special for both newbies and for loyal customers on every sixth check-in.

I also like how Foursquare users can earn cool badges from a noted designer. Shelter even created a unique badge for each store. Those who collect all eight will be entered into a contest to win prints of the designs.

The folks at Shelter really gave this promotion some forethought and didn't skimp on the details.

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The promotion has room to grow. Shelter is off to a great start and can develop the promotion in  a couple ways. The charity has a number of corporate partnerships they could add to the promotion. In exchange for a co-marketing opportunity on Shelter's Foursquare page a company could make a donation for each check-in. The real opportunity, however, is for Shelter to create Foursquare promotions for businesses--preferably ones with lots of locations--and include a cause marketing component that will benefit the charity. Companies would profit from Shelter's expertise and the housing chartiy would profit from sharing it.

Shelter was smart to focus on smartphone users. Now's not the the time to question the merits of mobile. Trust me, its future is as bright as the printing press! However, Shelter shouldn't stop with Foursquare. What about SMS? Those who read me regularly know that SMS is my new cause marketing darling so bear with me. Adoption rates for location-based services such as Foursquare are low and growing slowly. Adding a text component to Shelter's mobile promotion might make sense.

Use SMS for reach--because it's the ring that everyone answers--and then a QR code, landing page, application such as Foursquare for a richer media experience. SMS is the messenger that will tell mobile users that supporting Shelter Scotland and earning rewards for themselves is just a check-in away.

Are You Ready for Mobile Cause Marketing?

"Fate leads those who are willing. The unwilling it drags." - Seneca

I've been thinking and talking a lot about mobile and cause marketing lately. Mobile seemed to be a big buzz word at SXSW earlier this month and I know firsthand there was lots of talk about it at Nonprofit Technology Conference the following week. Over the two days I was there, the only sessions I attended were on mobile. A lot of chatter about mobile devices!

Frank Barry got me thinking about mobile again this morning (Frank does that from time to time) with this infographic. Mobile is pervasive, inescapable and dominant. Like a tidal wave heading for our shores, there's no running or hiding from it. As cause marketers we have to man and woman up!

But many of us are still playing in the sand oblivious to the impending wall of smartphones, apps, check-ins, texts, and mobile web sites bearing down on us.

As cause marketers we need to resize our thinking for mobile and prepare for the future.

1.  The change begins with you. I'm surprised by the number of aspiring cause marketers I meet that don't even own smartphones, or choose to use them like regular cell phones. You can't lead your organization's mobile efforts if you've never looked at a web site or replied to an email on your smartphone. While people nod their heads when I say mobile is important, they strangely don't believe that this revolution applies to them.

2.  Get busy. Think about everything you do as an organization and what needs be optimized for mobile. A little daunting, huh? Take a breath. A speaker at NTC talked about this (beginning at slide 19) and identified four key areas to rethink for mobile: text campaigns, mobile web sites, applications and email campaigns. This is great place to start.

3.  Start using Foursquare. Sure there are other location-based services to try: SCVNGR, Facebook Places, Gowalla, Loopt, etc. But Foursquare is the Facebook of location. So if you're pressed for time or interest, stick with Foursquare. Check-in to locations, click on "Specials," add pictures, leave tips (something I've only begun to do thanks to a push [more like a shove!] from Estrella Rosenberg.) Focus on becoming more comfortable with how location marketing works for businesses and where cause marketing is playing and could play a key role.

4.  Get social NOW! "Wait a minute!," you might be thinking. I have to embrace mobile and jump on social media too?" Yep, here's why. Social media is the ying to mobile's yang. They belong together. 50% of the people on Twitter use Twitter mobile. People watch 200 million Youtube videos a day on their mobile devices! Mobile devices are social devices. If you're not going to pick up a bat and glove and play along with people, don't even bother showing up for the game. Or sit in the stands as spectator.

5.  Stop talking about your fricken web site. I do believe that web sites are important. I don't believe they are the digital holy grail for your cause. Without innovation, engagement and portability it's an online billboard that doesn't change or engage, and the people that do see it generally just ignore it. Get over your web site.

We all have limited time and resources. The cause marketing of tomorrow requires that you give your full attention to mobile, location and social media.

The mobile wave is hurtling toward you. Will you float or flounder?

Your Drive Thru Guide to Fundraising on Foursquare

I talk to more and more people every day who want to use Foursquare and other location-based services for fundraising and cause marketing.

I point them to a whole series of posts I've written on the subject. But now I think I need to make the whole process just as simple as possible.

Fortunately, I have some help as McDonald's has just launched a Foursquare promotion with its restaurants in Philadelphia to benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC). This promotion runs through March 17th.

Here's what you'll need for your cause marketing promotion on Foursquare.

  1. A partnership between a cause and company. In this case, it's McDonald's and the RMHC. No company or cause? No cause marketing.
  2. At the minimum, the company has made a commitment of money or product per check-in. McDonald's is donating $1 for each check-in.
  3. The venues that will be part of the promotion need to be claimed on Foursquare. If they're not, they'll be nowhere to check-in to! Fortunately, creating a venue is easy. On the bottom right of this page, click on "Search and claim your venue."

The next phase is to set-up the actual promotion.

  • Encourage consumers to check-in on Foursquare. Who should you target? First, people on Facebook and Twitter as they are already social media savvy and more likely to be using Foursquare. The other opportunity is with in-store customers via signage. Check out these posters that our partner, Finagle A Bagel, hung in their stores.

  • Be clear with users on how their check-in is counted. This is what I really like about the McDonald's promotion. A one dollar donation is made to RMHC whenever a Foursquare check-in is sent to Twitter with the McDonald's Philadelphia handle "@McDPhilly". If you've used Foursquare you know this is very easy to do (see below), and it's a great promotional idea for McDonald's. They'll reach a much bigger audience on Twitter and it makes for easy counting as you only have to do a search on the @McDPhilly handle to determine what the  contribution should be.

  • Reward users for their participation. McDonald's is giving each customer that participates in the mobile social fundraiser a coupon for a free McCafe Shake.

  • Add up your check-ins on Twitter when the program is completed. But you might want to do this daily or weekly. There are many ways to do this, but you can use Tweetdeck or Tweedgrid and did a search for the handle "@McDPhilly".

I think this is an easy way to use Foursquare for cause marketing. You don't have to petition Foursquare for any special promotion or badge. You can track your own numbers on Twitter, which are open for all to see.

But it's obvious you need a couple things to make this program work.

  1. A generous company to front the money for the program. No money, no donation per check-in.
  2. Either the cause or the company, preferably both, need to be engaged on social media. If you have 10 followers on Twitter and 80 friends on Facebook and you think people will suddenly come out in droves to support you on Foursquare you are dead wrong.

Consider the example last week of Second Harvest Food Bank and the Social Media Challenge they did with Massage Envy. The reason the program worked is because Second Harvest already had a vibrant online community (which was further enhanced by the  program).

To review:

  • Find a partner with some dough.
  • Confirm their social media credentials.
  • Develop a program that is easy and fun.
  • Reward and thank supporters.
  • Use Twitter to track engagement and donations.

Like the people under the Golden Arches say, I'm lovin' it.

Foursquare + Mobile Payments = New Cause Marketing Platform

The latest cause marketing program from Foursquare is looking a lot like last year's. Maybe the folks at Foursquare should watch the movie Groundhog Day.

Don't get me wrong, it's all for a great cause, but location-based services like can be used for much more than action-triggered donations.

What if Foursquare could combine a special offer with a mobile payment so that shoppers could check-in an give.

Take the example above of Sports Authority and Boarding for Breast Cancer. If a consumer checks in at a Sport Authority they would get a message that says:

Sports Authority is supporting Boarding for Breast Cancer. Donate a dollar through Foursquare and we'll match your donation up to a total donation of $10,000.

Here comes the cool part. The consumer can donate to the cause directly through Foursquare with the touch of a button. No more asking at the register for shoppers to support a cause. No more paper pinups filling landfills after programs are over.

The store can promote the program, of course, and employees can act as facilitators for it, but there would be no ask at the register and no pinups. It would be passive cause marketing, but better because donating is quick and easy.

I'm also assuming that some stores will be good places for this as some brands will put shoppers in the giving vein. Donate a dollar when you check-in to Whole Foods to support organic farms. Support fair-trade coffee bean farmers when you check-in to Starbucks. Save puppies from the pound when you check-in to your local pet store.

The missing piece is the payment system that would allow shoppers to make an immediate donation. I asked this question at Quora and got some interesting responses on some services like Gifi and FaceCash that might work. The challenge is that none of these are widely adopted enough that retailers or consumers would use them for a cause marketing program.

Another option is text giving. But it means users leaving the Foursquare app, and to my knowledge you can't donate just a buck via text and the fees would eat up a good portion of the donation.

The idea of checking in on Foursquare and making a donation could work in a lot of other settings beside stores.

Check in to Yellowstone National Park on Foursquare and you're asked to donate a buck to the park. Or maybe it's just when you check-in to certain sites within the park like Old Faithful. You could do the same thing with museums, historical sites and colleges.

And there's no reason why companies cannot be involved in these asks with co-branding, incentives and offers of their own.

I like what's been done for causes thus far on Foursquare. But things are starting to get old. It's time to check-in to another venue.

Starbucks Mobile Payments May Give Cause Marketing a Jolt

I love the new mobile payment app from Starbucks. It's great having one less card to carry around (I'm down to a driver's license and a credit card). There's also a total coolness factor, especially when Chris Noble introduced me to the new app several weeks before most people, including most of the staff at Starbucks, knew it was working in stores.

Explaining the technology to the cashier, assuring them it would work if they carefully followed my instructions. Answering the questions of the people in line behind me. I never felt so "in the know" in all my life. God I hope it happens again.

But enough about me.

As Starbucks goes so goes American business. Target has been using this very technology since last February, but I didn't hear about it until the news spread late last year that you could use your smartphone to buy your Starbucks at Target.

This isn't the first time that Starbucks has led adoption.

Starbucks partnership with Product Red put cause marketing on display like no other brand ever did, including the Gap and Apple, and drove the popularity of cause marketing to new heights.

Again last year when Starbucks began offering specials through Foursquare it modeled a new idea for all businesses. Whether you were in a Starbucks or near one the "Specials" banner was not just an offer, but a pitch for all businesses to try Foursquare.

The next frontier is mobility payments. There's certainly a good chance that many businesses will follow suit, especially larger ones like McDonald's that might already have or can quickly put the infrastructure in place.

Some have pointed out that at face value, mobile payments aren't really that much easier than whipping out your Starbucks Gold Card. True, unless your like me and your iPhone is glued to your hand.

But here's something a plastic Starbucks card can't do: it can't marry sales with location.

Catharine Taylor at Social Media Insider last week wrote about the potential connection between mobile payments and Foursquare.

As Starbucks and Foursquare are already partners in commerce, imagine a default that automatically generates a Foursquare check-in when you transact a mobile payment. No work required. No having to append your location when you tweet, or anything like that. That's exactly what I've been looking for! Being able to check in without doing a damn thing!

Maybe that sounds lazy, but we all know that the less work required by the user, the more palatable something becomes. Not only does the potential of marrying mobile payments to check-ins make this a more popular behavior (or non-behavior, since you're not doing anything), it also makes the road just a little smoother to my inevitable claiming of the mayorship of my local Starbucks, with all of the perks that come with it. Seriously though, making check-ins automatic with mobile payments, for those who opt-in, will obviously drive loyalty programs, including ones targeted to those who frequently publicize they are at a local store, becoming an ad vehicle, if you will. There are more ramifications, to be sure, but that's the primary one that jumps to my mind.

Catharine believes that such a marriage would drive adoption of location-based services like Foursquare [Check out what people said when I asked the question at Quora: "How will mobile payments, like those found at Starbucks, and location based services like Foursquare work together?"]

This would be great for cause marketing in several ways.

  1. As I've posted on before, location-based services are a key part of the future of cause marketing. They can inform, remind, educate and direct consumers. While they will never replace the human touch, they engage and reinforce.
  2. While it may seem lazy to let users check-in to Foursquare when they're making a mobile payment, that doesn't mean we can't push notifications back to them. We can share what causes their check-in supported and what else they can do to help. They can also earn the usual array of badges, incentives and karma points for their efforts.
  3. Mike Schneider and Anne Mai Bertelsen wrote a great post in October talking about location-based data mining from multiple stores.

Take this example: if every day a consumer purchases a latte from Starbucks and then walks across the street to Dunkin' Donuts to pick up a turkey sausage flatbread, both companies could benefit from that information. If many customers display similar habits, Starbucks could add a similar breakfast sandwich to their menu or even discontinue their current breakfast fare at that location. That level of data provides a more holistic view of consumer behavior, and could ultimately help brands become more relevant and timely.

Mike and Anne are really on to something here, and linking mobile payments with location would really boost data collection. Causes would also benefit from the intelligence.

If a consumer supports Conservation International at Starbucks and then shops at a fair trade store and picks up a free-range chicken lunch at Whole Foods, maybe that impacts the types of causes they're asked to support when arrive at the register at Target. Or perhaps a standalone business can use customer check-ins and donations in their area to help it pick an appropriate cause partner for a new program.

Mobile payments and location can also work together in other ways. Purchases on your smartphone, for instance, could guide the shopping and restaurant recommendations you get on your Mapquest directions. Or identify causes on your way to the mall that need something you could buy and drop off on your way home.

Mobile payments and location belong together. And cause marketing belongs with both of them.