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Radio Looks at Location-Based Social Media

For stations looking to do something different, games represent a potent opportunity that is begging to be taken

Photo Courtesy Foursquare
The phrase “location-based social media” is quite a mouthful, but it is a phrase that radio broadcasters should know and understand. The reason: By combining the allure of social networking, mobile phones and the fact that these users are always going somewhere (hence the location aspect), location-based social media are the Facebook generation’s new form of real-time collaborative play — and a heady trend that radio can tap into.

Popular location-based gamemakers include Foursquare, Brightkite, SCVNGR and Gowalla. Facebook, Yelp and other networks have also added location-based features to their services over the past year.

Geo-aware app

“These games can be as simple as checking in via geo-location-based mobile applications and broadcasting those activities via social networks, or as elaborate as location-based activities that share a consumer’s level of activity in a specific place and giving them incentives for doing so,” said Pierre Barbeau, CEO of mobile solutions company Moblico.

“By taking advantage of these types of social-mobile opportunities, radio broadcast outlets open up a new opportunity for themselves to attract and engage listeners and advertisers — and maintain them.”

Most location-based social networks have a similar dynamic. Users sign up for an account and download an app to their smartphone. They then check in to venues as their go about their day, earning points and badges or pins for their activity. Some allow frequent visitors to become mayor or king of a venue; most of the time such titles are solely for the bragging rights, but some venues offer discounts or special deals to location-based social media users.

“Location-based marketing is not going away; in fact, it will become a standard part of retail’s marketing mix very quickly,” adds media analyst Scott Sands on his blog.

This said, Sands wonders why radio isn’t capitalizing on games such as Foursquare, a location-based social media game where players earn ‘rewards’ for exploring their cities and sharing their travels with friends.

“VH1 is on Foursquare. Bravo is on Foursquare. So is The History Channel,” Sands writes. “[But] I can’t find a single radio station or band with a Foursquare presence.”

Maybe not. But Alice Radio in San Francisco recently teamed up with Gowalla to raise money for Haiti.

Check in

“When a Passport [Gowalla’s term for its mobile app] holder used Gowalla to check-in at one of three selected locations, two Peet’s coffee shops and a Barenaked Ladies concert during a specified time, Gowalla donated $50 in that person’s name to the American Red Cross for each check-in,” said Gowalla Communications Manager Pia Arthur. “Two morning show hosts from Alice Radio appeared alongside Gowalla co-founder Josh Williams at the check-in destinations throughout the day.”

SCVNGR offers a twist on the above two scenarios, by working old-style scavenger hunts into the mix. “SCVNGR is a game about going places, doing challenges and earning points,” said Seth Priebatsch, chief ninja and CEO at SCVNGR.

“Challenges are quick, fun activities that people can do at the places they visit to earn points and unlock real-world rewards; checking-in is just one of many challenges a user/player does at the location. Businesses and individuals can script custom challenges on SCVNGR at their locations to engage customers with product, boost sales, and create a powerful brand connection by harnessing the power of fun and leveraging game dynamics.”

To date, no radio stations have tapped into SCVNGR for location-based social gaming. But Priebatsch can cite lots of reasons why they should. “Broadcasters can use SCVNGR to expand their connection with listeners beyond the point when they shut off their radio,” he said.

“By building challenges at locations of sponsors, brand partners, or featured content (think: a stadium for a sports radio program), listeners will be able to connect with on-air personalities or station themes when they visit these places in their everyday routines. Offering rewards at these locations — a free hotdog at the ballpark for 20 points — will offer further incentive for engagement, and boosts ‘talkability’ for on-air reads.”


Gowalla’s Arthur also sees location-based marketing opportunities for broadcasters who join forces with her company.

“There are currently several things radio stations can do to become active on Gowalla,” she said. “Radio stations can create trips for certain events, and they can do giveaways for check-ins to their events and concerts. Through comments, stations can also receive feedback from listeners about events they are hosting.”

For radio stations looking to do something different — and to capture the attention of the social media savvy Facebook generation — these games represent a potent opportunity that is just begging to be taken.

“[The goal is] to give listeners a great experience while sponsors and broadcasters benefit from more personalized engagement with the audiences they want to reach,” said Moblico’s Barbeau. By linking radio to location-based social media games, “we turn radio into a ‘3D experience’ that expands reach for everyone. In the end, this drives revenues to new levels.”