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.

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.

Foursquare Cause Marketing Starts with Loyalty Programs

Last month during a visit to a Finagle-A-Bagel store in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts to pick up a check for $25,000 from the Finagle team and their owner, Laura Trust, we got talking about social media, specifically, location-based services. Finagle was intrigued with Foursquare and how they could use the service to connect with and reward customers at their nine area stores.

The challenge was Finagle's traditional loyalty program, the Frequent Finagler, which was expensive and it wasn't social. They were eager to replace it with something better.

With just a bit of guidance from me, Finagle developed a new program that they are testing in a couple stores. Social media, and especially Foursquare, is suddenly central to their loyalty strategy. And while it required extra work to get the program up and running, expenses beyond printing the signage for the stores has been minimal.

You may be asking, "Well, that's great, Joe. You sold them on Foursquare and helped them get a program up and running. But there's no mention of cause marketing or even your cause. How do you benefit?"

  1. My efforts help me build a stronger tie with a key partner by demonstrating my commitment to our mutual success.
  2. Finagle's new social media platform gives me a potential lab to experiment with location-based cause marketing. A lot of causes want to try social cause marketing, but adoption of some of these services, especially LBS, is very low with many small businesses. Causes need to be more proactive about educating businesses on these new tools and thus creating more initiatives for themselves.
  3. Working with Finagle gives me a case study on the opportunity of mobile loyalty programs that I can shop to other businesses. Right now I can use Finagle as an example of a business that saw the value of Foursquare when it came to savings thousands of dollars on a traditional loyalty program. Shortly, I hope to add that the change was successful and that customers are using Foursquare to reap their loyalty rewards.

Have you come up short pitching small businesses on cause marketing? Take a step back and start a dialogue about location-based services and how they could save thousands of dollars on a traditional loyalty program and make it social.

Forget hope of gain or profit. Focus on being useful. Give of yourself freely. Your loss just might be your much greater gain.

Happy New Year, Cause Marketing! Love, SCVNGR

Starting yesterday in Times Square Massachusetts-based SCVNGR teamed up with teen clothing retailer American Eagle on a New Year’s program aiming to raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters.

This location-based cause marketing program asks consumers to complete challenges on SCVNGR to raise cash for BBBS. Such challenges include “2010 was…” and players are asked to describe their year, “Spot the Eagle,” which asks them to snap a picture with the eagle on the Times Square billboard and “What’s your resolution,” which asks for 2011 resolutions.

After you complete a challenge, American Eagle donates five bucks to BBBS, which SCVNGR will match.

This is a great test for SCVNGR at the epicenter of location-land, New York City. Times Square has been a test tube for other LBS experiments, and American Eagle is a natural as it woos teens and young adults.

Outside of major cities and social media conferences, LBS seems to be progressing slowly, especially for cause marketing.

I'd love to hear of more examples location-based cause marketing if you have them! I'm dedicating a whole chapter in Cause Marketing for Dummies to LBCM and I'm determined to make it a useful resource to you!

On a separate note, Mike Schneider and Aaron Strout are writing Location-Based Marketing for Dummies and looking for great examples of businesses using Foursquare, Gowalla, SCVNGR and other services.

Keep your eyes peeled and Mike, Aaron and me in mind!