Geo-Social Street Wars in Election 2010?

Another guest article, our second this week! This one comes from my NMS colleague Matt DeLuca, and it originally ran on the NMS blog. Matt’s been a great source of Quick Hits ideas lately, but this is his first actual guest piece on For more tips on using Foursquare and other geo-social tools for political advocacy, see Shana Glickfield’s article from a few weeks ago.

Geo-Social Street Wars in Election 2010?

By Matt DeLuca

There’s a lot of general talk and buzz about Foursquare — we’ve discussed it at length on the NMS Blog (At SXSW Last Year’s Next Big Thing Was This Years Actual Big Thing) but with Foursquare and Gowalla gaining more traction and greater acceptance by small and big businesses, it’s time to start thinking about the 2010 and 2012 election cycles for geo-social.

At the heart of geo-social is the reward system established by Foursquare and Gowalla. Users are encouraged to check in and those who check-in the most are rewarded in a variety of ways. Foursquare uses a badge and mayor system to reward users for checking in to a variety places or being the most frequent user at a location. Gowalla uses a similar system but uses a leader board to list user check-ins. More importantly, Gowalla uses a trip feature that allows users to travel to various locations and follow a pre-determined itinerary.

Gowalla is the first geo-social service out of the gate (albeit with the smallest numbers and hardest learning curve and somewhat confusing UI) with Gowalla Politics. There is also a political category available now so visitors can check in and get their passports stamped. Additionally, Charlie Crist (I-FL), Rick Perry (R-TX) and Jim Ward (R-AZ) can now be followed on Gowalla during the election cycle. Rick Perry has been one of the largest advocates of Gowalla (the company is Texas-based) and it’s exciting to see two Republicans (often derided as late adopters to the technology game) featured. There is no doubt that Barack Obama and the 2012 GOP candidates (Palin, Romney, Pawlenty, Gingrich and Daniels) will get on board soon as well.

Foursquare is the largest geo-social platform, but they have been slower out of the gate, although Jordan Raynor has advocated for GOTV efforts using Foursquare using an ‘I Voted’ badge. With requests backlogged for a few months, it will be interesting to see how Foursquare will respond to the flurry of political requests and what will come out of it.

Facebook and Twitter are also working with location so it is important to keep an eye out on these two extremely popular services, as they could create a service, which dwarfs Foursquare. Loopt, Google Latitude and Brightkite are also smaller services, which could possibly be political services but currently lack the user base to be relevant.

Regardless, it’s important for campaigns and organizations to think carefully about their geo-social strategies and to work to educate volunteer and staff about the dos and don’ts of Foursquare. For instance, use check-ins to count and reward volunteers at phone banks, leave tips at local venues encouraging voters to register or get out to the polls.

As Election Day approaches, it will be important for candidates and campaigns to utilize geo-social and other social networking services to best reach their base and ultimately, turn out the vote. There are many possible strategies using geo-social, and we are only scratching the surface of the political possibilities of these services.

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Matt DeLuca
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