Where Is Your Organization At In Regards To Location-Based Mobile Social Networks?

 Image: Steve Dunleavy

William Roth's blog has some excellent ideas on ways to get people outdoors using Foursquare.

I was saved from near disaster in the mountains a few winters ago by a cell phone. After getting lost in a freak blizzard while snow shoeing I was able to call search and rescue to get helicoptered out from what could have become a bad situation. Now, I never leave home without one fully charged before I venture into the wilderness. And I'm not alone: many search and rescue teams report that cell phones are helping to avert problems–before they become life-threatening–and saving lives.*

Of course most people wont need to use their cell phones for an extreme search and rescue situation while enjoying the outdoors but since cell phones are the only interactive medium people tend to carry with them in non-interactive medium environments–such as the outdoors–I really think William's onto something here. Environmental non-profits and outdoor organizations should sit up and take note of the marketing possibilities that Foursquare presents.

Beyond being a fun game why should your organization get involved with it? Here's two additional reasons that I came up with.

1. Corporate Partnerships
Users get rewarded with badges and points for visiting locations and logging those locations into their Foursquare accounts. Let's say you're a conservation organization and you want to encourage your members to develop resonance for a certain river, mountain, beach or wilderness area. It would be easy to partner with outside organizations and vendors that could then connect with the Foursquare user once they "check-in" to the outdoor place they visit the most frequently. If you've had a hard time getting corporate sponsors for your cause, this could be your entree.

2. Membership Engagement
People often have collector mentalities. Perhaps your organization could run a competition with your members to rack up visits to every place you are trying to protect. You could then reward or highlight them in some way for being wilderness "frequent flyers."

Foursquare presents a fantastic opportunity for environmental non-profits to engage with their members and build awareness around the outdoor places and environments they are trying to protect in a fun and educational way. Cellular network coverage has improved tremendously over the past several years so take advantage of this and get your members to interact with your organization even when they are on the road and away from their computers.

One thing to bear in mind though, is that cell phone coverage is still not ubiquitous in the United States and rural and remote areas suffer most from lack of it (although sadly, I often get better cell reception on the top of peaks than I do at my house; there are no guarantees.)

*Please don't venture out into a wilderness situation that is beyond your level of  skill and expertise with the idea that a cell phone will save you should you get into a dangerous situation.

Natalie Zensius is a marketing communications strategist with experience in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. Learn more about Natalie at http:www.linkedin.com/in/nzensius.

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