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How The Regional District of Fraser-Fort George Should Be Using Foursquare with the Golden Raven Program

Posted on 17 June 2010

This post is exciting for me because I get to combine my two passions– social media and civic boosterism of northern BC into a single post. Here goes:

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What is Foursquare?

Foursquare is a social networking site that encourages users to share their location with friends. You do this by “checking in” when you visit a new location and are rewarded in two ways: 1. receiving badges for certain tasks (for example, “Adventurer” for checking in to 10 different venues or the “Don’t Stop Believin'” badge for karaoke) and 2. becoming the “mayor” of a venue if you check in somewhere more than anyone else. These rewards may or may not have real-world value (most famously Starbucks offers discounts to mayors of their outlets).

What is Golden Raven?

Golden Raven is a marketing campaign created by the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George, Tourism Prince George, and Tourism British Columbia. It brands cultural tourism destinations in northern BC as part of an overall “Golden Raven Experience” that lends itself well to cross-promotion. It also has some great visual design (my opinion).

How Should Golden Raven Be Implementing Foursquare?

Very simply. They should be working with Foursquare to create a Golden Raven badge that users get from checking in to a set number of Golden Raven destinations. This isn’t unheard of by any means. The City of Chicago has an “On Location” badge that encourages users to explore the city by checking in at locations used in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Frankly, this is no-brainer. Heck, in 2008 Golden Raven engaged in an offline version of exactly this sort of thing with the Golden Raven Passport Contest. In this promotion, you picked up a passport-style booklet with some information about each of the cultural destinations. Then, when you visited a site, you got a stamp. At the end of the year, everyone who participated was entered in a contest to win cash that corresponded directly to the number of locations you had visited. Substitute “smartphone” for “passport” and “check-in” for “stamp” and there you are, with the added benefit of participants being able to share their experiences on Twitter and Facebook, thus increasing the chance of these locations being promoted via word-of-mouth advertising.

Problems?

There are a few possible ones.

1. Most obvious is that people might check-in without actually checking the place out.

Of course, places that are actually offering cash value for this would be most concerned, but solutions are coming into place– and if big brands feel its worth the risk of abuse, why wouldn’t Golden Raven? If you really want it to be fool-proof, just put the physical stamp-and-passport thing in place alongside the Foursquare promotion. Trust me, smartphone addicts will still want to use Foursquare. Which brings me to number two…

2. Not everyone has a smartphone.

I don’t have stats, but my gut instinct is that people in northern BC are later adopters than Foursquare centres of New York and San Francisco. That said, the market is growing, this would attract people who are younger that might not normally take part in such promotions, word-of-mouth, blah blah blah. But  if you fear alienating non-smartphone users you could let them check-in at the mobile site using public computers and/or you can offer the physical stamp-and-passport promotion alongside it. Or, you could just offer the stamp to Foursquare/smartphone enthusiasts and use other promotions for other segments (it’s not like having a badge has to cost you anything).

3. What if Foursqaure doesn’t want to work with Golden Raven?

I sincerely doubt this. Any user can suggest badges and my gut instinct is that official representatives of a regional or provincial tourism body could attract attention from Foursquare (which is still a start-up looking for name-recognition, after all). And if there’s right-out rejection,  it’s not as if there is a lack of other location-based services in existence.

And even if there isn’t an official partnership in place, tourism offices should be on these geolocation services– now. It’s a great way to communicate with people who like to go out and explore new places anyways (that’s why they’re on Foursquare), share tips (the History Channel’s Foursquare page is a great example for what a Golden Raven brand on Foursquare could and should be doing), and, frankly, add a little hipness to heritage sites. It’s also a good way to make other promotions– I manage the CFUR Foursquare location, and any special you can come up with, Foursquare lets you implement. This could be anything from mayoral discounts to free visits after a certain number of check-ins– things that are pretty standard practice in the tourism marketing world already.

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So that’s it in a nutshell. I’m actually going to email this to the Golden Raven representatives and see if they respond. I’ll let you know if they do.

Filed under: ideas, Prince George, social media

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