Facebook recently added a new feature that allows users to take advantage of location-based postings.
To find out how nonprofit groups can benefit from this new feature, The Chronicle asked John Haydon, the founder of Inbound Zombie, a company that specializes in social-media marketing for nonprofit groups, to offer some suggestions.
Here’s his guest post on the topic:
You’re probably aware that Facebook released a location-based tagging feature a couple of weeks ago called “Places” that works similarly to FourSquare or Gowalla. The basic idea is that Facebook users can share when and where they hang out with their Facebook friends (and sometimes the universe). And if you’ve kept up on what’s new with location-based marketing, you’ve read about the companies that have emerged in response to our need to “check in.”
So great—corporate brands are benefiting from the emphasis on location. But how can you use Facebook Places to create more awareness and money for your nonprofit group? To get started, consider the following ideas:
Don’t let shiny replace strategy.
No matter what social tools come on the market (and believe me, pretty soon you’ll see tools way cooler than Facebook Places), they cannot take the place of a well-thought-out strategy. For more on tools vs. strategy, read “Tactics” Actions, Not Tools” by Geoff Livingston.
Understand what makes Facebook Places different.
Facebook Places is different from FourSquare and Gowalla in two ways:
* FourSquare and Gowalla have carved a small path into hyperlocal social networks. In major metropolitan areas like Boston and Chicago, “checking in” is now a natural part of social culture. Facebook Places arrives on the market without having to do much work educating users about its value.
* Facebook Places comes fully loaded with a network that beats FourSquare and Gowalla in both network quality and network size (well over half a billion people).
Work with local businesses.
Location-based social tools have huge potential for cause-marketing efforts at the local level. Think about the local retailers and chains in your city. They are desperately trying to stay afloat in today’s rough economy. Cone has done years of research showing that—all things being equal—consumers will buy the brand that gives back to their community. If you’re interested in learning more about location-based cause marketing, read these four articles by Joe Waters—the unofficial king of cause marketing:
- 5 Reasons Not to Give Up on Location-Based Marketing
- Foursquare for Charities: Live Discussion
- How Nonprofit Groups Can Benefit From Foursquare
- Foursquare ‘Checkin for Charity’ Hits 135k Checkins, Raises $15k
If marketers know one thing for sure, it’s this: Facebook users like to play games. At your next event, why not create a game of tag for the attendees? For example, you could have attendees tag friends who have done exceptional work for your org. Have them fill out the details in the Places update. Post details about the game on colorful posters around the event.
Rely on your own experiences.
Culture can be passed along only through experience. Facebook users understand a shared set of cultures that non-users will never understand. As a nonprofit marketer, if you are not personally active on Facebook, you’re missing out on thousands of social queues (not to mention memes) that are critical parts of a social strategy.
Think offline first.
Facebook Places, FourSquare and Gowalla are not about what’s happening online. They’re about locations and events. So start with creating an amazing event that people want to be a part of and then wrap location-tools around it. For example, participants in a walk for cancer can check in at businesses that support the cause along their walk route.
Focus on the mission.
An interesting way nonprofits can use Facebook Places is to create awareness about their cause by tagging locations that matter. For example, an environmental organization can tag beaches that are still impacted by the BP oil spill.
Challenge assumptions we have about using social media. For example, is the Facebook Places icon only meant to be utilized online? Certainly not. Why not turn the icon into markers for real places— like the University of Kentucky did in the photo below:
What do you think?
Share your ideas below about what ways you have succeeded—or run aground—using location-based services.