April 2, 2010

How nonprofits can use geolocation

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Museums and Foursquare can add up to a perfect pairing

brooklyn-museum-mayorBeth KanterIam putting the finishing touches on another social media lab designed for arts organizations. So, I’ve been updating arts 2.0 examples. I’ve also been trying to wrap my brain around whether or not Foursquare has value for nonprofits. I had to look no further than Shelley Bernstein’s blog over at the Brooklyn Museum to find some thoughtful experimentation and useful examples.

Back in December, the Brooklyn Museum started to experiment with FourSquare running a promotion to get people to check in and get a free membership. Shelley notes in her post the reason why they decided to explore FourSquare:

“As simply as I can put this, Foursquare is about place and identifying yourself through that. It is a celebration of the visitor—the people who crossed the river, who made it in the door and decided to identify themselves with us…right here at 40.67124,-73.963834.”

In this first experiment, the museum took advantage of the “tips” feature where users can leave tips about a location. They had their staff, local experts in the location, add tips about what was interesting for visitors in the neighborhood. Says Shelley: “As people explore our area, the Brooklyn Museum staff help them along in their journey pointing out the joys of pancakes at Tom’s Restaurant or the killer wine selection at Abigail’s.” Other ideas include a special museum badge. In addition, the museum has taken those tips and created a mashup with the Yelp API.

The use of FourSquare fits in with its other experiments with mobile and playing with the idea of place. Last week, the museum released a mobile version of their website, joining other museums like the Powerhouse Museum and the Walker Art Center. They’ve incorporated an interactive component called Gallery Tag, where visitors select a tag or create their own, go find works in the galleries that match, enter accession numbers and earn points and prizes. (For more on creating mobile web sites, see Laura Quinn at Idealware’s recent post.)

Another interesting way that the Brooklyn Museum is incorporating social media is its Socially Networked Museum Membership, which offers membership benefits.

Incorporating the use of a location-based social networks seems a natural for museums, given the move toward more participatory institutions and how museums have embraced mobile. Location-based social networks also offer opportunities for the performing arts and theater. It will be interesting to see how these early experiments scale within these institutions and their sectors.

Cross-posted on Beth’s blog.

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Four minutes with the CEO/co-founder of Foursquare (Socialmedia.biz)Beth Kanter is CEO of Zoetica, a consultancy for nonprofits. See her profile, visit her blog, contact Beth or leave a comment.

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