If a tree falls in the forest and no one checks-in to see it, did it happen? | npENGAGE

If a tree falls in the forest and no one checks-in to see it, did it happen?

By on Jan 28, 2011

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So last week I was hanging out at the Purple Couch at Convio’s Austin headquarters with Emily Goodstein and Betsy Gressler and some other colleagues*.  Emily had just “checked us in” on Facebook Places at the Purple Couch, which spurred some interested discussion: why use geosocial media at all?

The answer Emily put forth was, “If a tree falls in the forest…?”

And I finished her sentence:  “…and no one checks-in to see it, did it really happen?”

So, geosocial networking.  These are services like Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook Places, and more that allow you to “check-in” from your mobile device to show you were there.  Many of these services allow you to play a game of sorts – the person who visits a location most often gets to be “the mayor” (on Foursquare).  Also, businesses offer people deals if they check-in – sort of like the Subway Club Card (but with less fraud), where you get a free sandwich after your purchase of 10 sandwiches.

Convio’s booth at NTEN was on Foursquare, and Marc Cannon at Convio ended up being the mayor of the Convio booth.  Convio’s a company, of course – what about geosocial networking for nonprofits?

This is not a new question – we were asking it a year ago.  What are good use cases for nonprofits to use geosocial networking?  Here are some back-of-the-envelope ideas:

  • your organization is presenting at a conference – offer people who check-in at your exhibitor booth a special tchotchke
  • you attend a public event like a festival, pride celebration or other event where you have a booth – same idea
  • your headquarters is a place that offers membership benefits or is otherwise open to the public (a good option, since the other two examples are transient event-based situations)

As we pointed out last year, some nonprofits are experimenting with geosocial networking.  Convio’s study The Next Generation of American Giving points out that engaging with constituents via many channels – and indeed, via their preferred channel, which for some might be this channel – is the wave of the future.  Fish where the fish are – and there are some fish here.  (Not a lot right now, but some.)

My two cents:  experiment with this, for sure, but only if you are strong in the basics – your email list strategy and other bread-and-butter methods of engaging supporters online.  If you only have room on your plate right now for one social media item, let it be Facebook.  Then add geosocial when you truly have resources to devote to strategy and execution.

But if you’re already using this – tell us in the comments, what are YOU doing with geosocial networking?  If not, what are some creative ideas that you’d like to try?  And Happy Friday, and have a great weekend – check-in with you on Monday!

*Isn’t it rude to not name the additional colleagues?  It’s like the Gilligan’s Island theme song “a movie star, and the rest!  Here on Gilligan’s Isle!”  And what about Professor and Mary Anne, sitting over to the side saying “What do you mean, the rest – it’s us!”**  So for reference, the additional colleagues were Amber Wobschall, Kristen Salvo, Natalie Cole and Rachel Jackson.

**I did not make up this joke – but I cannot remember where I originally saw it, or else I would credit. 

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