Foursquare & Gowalla for Large Hospital Systems

To begin…my friend Reed Smith does a great job of explaining the steps to get your organization going with Foursquare and Gowalla. Here is his step-by-step process for Foursquare (CLICK HERE) and for Gowalla (CLICK HERE).

Here are a few things we have found when setting up Foursquare and Gowalla at Greenville Hospital System (GHS) in Greenville, SC.

First of all, GHS is a large hospital system with multiple campuses serving the Upstate of South Carolina. When beginning to tackle this project, we noticed immediately it was necessary to engage using this social outlet. Why? Well, we found close to five different spots created for the main hospital each totaling close to 2000 check-ins. Each location had in-complete information about the hospital. This fragmented information was not best serving the hospital and the individuals using these outlets. None of the locations had a correct phone number, web address, and physical address. So we knew immediately we had to begin taking control of these check-in points, consolidate, and update with correct information.

The next thing we noticed is that a hospital might have multiple places for a person to check-in, including the hospital main entrance, emergency department, labor & delivery, rehabilitation services, and even nationally branded restaurants inside (Starbucks, Chic-Fil-A, etc.). While accessing these possible check-in points, we began to consolidate places for people to check-in. We wanted to only have destination points that supported the interests of GHS’s customers as they align with certain service lines. So we began with the main entrance, emergency room, and labor & delivery at the main hospital. This is still a working progress.

When consolidating locations at one campus, proximity of geographical check-in points was key. Foursquare and Gowalla only work in a two dimensional space…meaning if the labor & delivery was one floor above the main entrance…it might not make sense for both check-in points. We want the check-in process to be fun and social, not become a hindrance when trying to decide which point to select.

The key to beginning is to follow what Reed Smith describes in his posts, but it is important to create business Foursquare and Gowalla account separate from your personal account. When claiming these locations for your business, you want it tied to a single account that you can manage. You will be able to edit and manage each location from this user account. We also decided to start with Foursquare and Gowalla first, then we are slowly moving to Google Places, Facebook, and Yelp.

Patience is key when setting up and managing these location based outlets. You have to spend time working with Foursquare and Gowalla to remove and merge duplicates, keep information updated, and engage with the community. Each location has the possibility for individuals to not only check-in but also comment about their experience. This is a great way to engage in healthy conversations.

Protecting our name & online accounts from being hacked!

So I get this email below from my father this morning…I have been hacked! Oh yes, someone has broken into my email and hacked me. What have they done, sent out emails (from my contact list) including some weird link that leads them to a place of no return. BLAH…

Almost a year ago, I was hacked in a different way. I had someone break into my car and steal some very expensive items from me. Yes, I was hacked (well robbed) here as well. I am convinced this situation was predicated by someone learning my location based on conversations on Social Media sites, broke into my car in the middle of the night, and steal my stuff. That is why I am weary about some of the geo-location, social media technologies (Foursquare, Gowalla, Google Latitude, etc.)

We are being hacked everyday from our new, digital lives. Whether it is a email account being hacked, houses broken into, social security numbers compromised, bank accounts with malicious charges, or Twitter accounts being used on our behalf with contradicting messaging. Look at the gulf and the BP situation, “Terry” created @BPGlobalPR to spread off color messages about the gulf situation, BP’s brand was hacked! Or was it really?

College coaches everyday deal with someone using the college coaches name to maliciously sell advertising to make a buck. Hackers are on so many levels compromising our very core of our own brand identity…so we are forced to squat. Seriously, go out and find all the digital domains, acquire them, and hold them so no one else will use them maliciously.

I wonder if Coach Steve Spurrier knows if his name is on this site, using Steve Spurrier’s brand equity to sell ads for someone else’s benefit? Are they hijacking his name or is it Coach Steve Spurrier’s fault for not knowing how other’s are using his name online? Maybe Coach Steve Spurrier knows about this site and is benefiting from the traffic? I know this…I am not clicking any of the links on this site until I know that Coach Steve Spurrier is benefiting from his brand equity being used, or any Steve Spurrier for that matter.

So let”s back up and think more about the main reason why I am writing. First of all, one of my accounts was compromised. Some person or person(s) used my email account to email a group of my contacts (my sphere of influence) to market their “product.” Yes, this is a technology inconvenience.  My mother called me and said, hey you should just delete all the contacts and close account. Let’s think about this for a second.

Yes, I have logged into this account (which is an old hotmail email account) and deleted all of the mail in the inbox, outbox, folders, sent, etc. I also deleted all of the contacts in the address book. I even went ahead and changed the three year old password. But, I am not going to delete the account. Why? Because it is my name, my brand, my face. The email account is BobbyRettew “at” hotmail.com…if deleted, someone else can open a BobbyRettew “at” hotmail.com account and begin emailing using my branded name.

Why do I care, because I do not want some other person using my name to communicate a message that I cannot control. Now it would be different if I was JohnSmith “at” hotmail.com, but I have a unique name. There are very few Bobby Rettew’s out there, and I would like to make sure I protect the branded name I have worked so hard to build. I do not want someone using this email account for reasons that could potentially “hack” my brand equity.

Leason I have learned: continually change my password. Yes, I am squatting on this email account…but that is my choice. Our name is everything to us…it is our branded image, even our email accounts.

Foursquare & Gowalla – The Next Bonus Card?

Where ever you live or how ever you shop…you have been asked to sign-up for a bonus card or discount card. You know that little card that you can put in your wallet or on your key-chain. The one that is swiped each time you walk in that store and make purchase. You might be that person with all sorts of bonus cards from the local grocery store, hardware store, and even your local sporting goods store.

You were attracted to this card because of the immediate savings you will see when you check out. You can experience the “buy one, get one free” or even the “half off” special. Whatever the promotion, swiping the card earns you savings. Swiping the card provides the retailer a better understanding how to stock the store based on your demographics. It is a smart way to not only audit the “stock” but to audit buying tendencies of each consumer.

Is Foursquare and Gowalla the global bonus card system? Well, first off…let’s look at the incentives of this innovation:

  • Some retailers are offering promotions when checking or checking in multiple times.
  • Finding like minded individuals who have been to the same or similar location(s).
  • Reading reviews and/or experiences of other “consumers” at a particular location.
  • Ability to build a map or trip for group of individuals to enjoy.
  • Providing community based marketing for retailers and organizations.

How do you feel when you walk up and swiping that bonus card? Other than the great savings you are experiencing? Do you think about what tendencies are being saved when you swipe that bonus card then your debit/credit card. Now I am not preaching this whole conspiracy theory that the government is out to get us. But, what are retailers saving about us on the world wide grid. Are tendencies are being saved, each time we swipe the bonus card, the credit/debit card, when we do a keyword search in Google, and even when we Tweet. I have Google Alerts set-up with my name as the search keyword and look what was sent to me in my daily update, a link to this:


Yes…I have not seen this site before (Shopalize), tracking keywords in my Tweets. Where ever I go, what ever I say; in this digital world, someone is aggregating my information for marketing purposes.

As I was sitting here writing this post, a Verizon Commercial (above) played. The one thing that stood out in this commercial (as this lady walked through the town…chatting on her phone) the “world” around her was “tuned” to her position. Each turn of the corner…tuning to her Tweets, her “Check In’s”, her searches, her purchases. Her “Check-In’s” geo-located to aggregate all the relevant purchasing power this lady has during this little trek. She has walked this path before and the little towers tuned to her position are the collectors of the magic little bonus card in her palm…the mobile device.

Foursquare, Gowalla, Geo-Location…the new ROI?

It was just two years ago and everyone was going nuts about Twitter and creating lots of comparisons between Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn…and so on. Books were being written about the business applications of these Social Media outlets and conferences around the industry being put on, talking best practices. But the one thing that kept on arising…what is the purpose behind all the mess. Both sides were asking these questions…the groups that created these platforms and those engaging. ROI was a huge discussion. Both the investors of the platforms and the business using these outlets…why and how?

Then…this crazy thing called “geo-location” was emerging publically. Basically not only telling the world what you are thinking, but where you are located when you are saying your thoughts. These crazy technologies popped up with lots of traction, ie. Foursquare and Gowalla. People tagging their location by “Checking In.” A new craze of people jumping on board. The early adopters trying them out and others sitting back to watch the recourse.

A few months ago, I shared a few beers with Olivier Blanchard at a great pub in Greenville and we talked about what all this mess means. Well, a few beers brings out lots on creative thoughts but we both agreed on a few things. But here are two points that came up in the discussion (fyi…I am not speaking for Olivier):

1) These geo-location technologies are the true ROI for Social Media. Why, because now retailers and organizations can now place a name, information, and demographics to a decision making process.

2) These geo-location technologies are creating a true paradigm shift how retailers and organizations reach audiences. This is the point I am excited to write about.

Imagine this…you are planning a trip.  You are getting on a plane and you live in a metropolitan area like New York City. You get up in the morning, grab your bags, and head out the door. On the way to the subway, you drop into a coffee shop for a java and “Check-In.” This coffee shop knows you well because you have been “Checking In” for a while and they already have your carmel latte ready right when you “Check-In.” You grab that java and out the door you go to catch the subway. You have made this trip before because you travel for business. As walk down sidewalk, you stop for a paper and “Check-In” at the local paper stand. After picking up the paper, you make you way down the stairs into the subway…there are television and LED screens along the walls. This geo-location has tracked your tendencies, knows what food you like, what shoes you like…because you “Check-In” to the spots all the time. So now, based on your preferences, there are ads showing on these television screens targeted specifically for you. There is even one that tells you that your plane is on time and references you by name. Geo-location is creating a direct, one-to-one conversation between your location, your tendencies, your buying power….AND their message. This is just one scenerio in this Time Square Effect!

These “Check-In’s” are the public domain of your credit card transactions. But now they are combining your purchasing power with your location from a public position.  This is like the “global” version of your CVS or Walgreens Card…telling everyone where you are going and what you are doing. The marketers are eating this up as fast as they can, leveraging the information we knowingly post publicly; why…to help you make purchasing decisions.

Our Social Media transactions (both on a conversational side and a location side) are becoming the collective database we knowingly support each time we go the local super market for eggs and milk and “Check-In.” We are creating the ROI for marketers. This comes to no surprise because we are a debit card/credit card carrying society. Now…it is more public.

This post is not meant to poke holes in our Social Media tendencies but bring an awareness to the massive database we are creating. There is so much value in the “Checking In” model. We are helping the local retailers compete with the big box providers. If there is one group that should try to leverage this technology…well it is the small retailers or companies trying to compete in a global economy.

Hospitals should open the “pipes” for Social Media!

Hospitals need to start opening up the pipes to social media inside the hospitals. Like most large organizations, hospitals clamp down on whether employees can access certain web properties: whether it is ESPN, Yahoo, and now Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites. Here are couple simple reasons I think IT Departments and Executive Leadership should jump in and open up the pipes:

1) Mobile – If employees cannot access the same sites on the hospital computers, they are using mobile devices to access this information. With 3G and soon to come 4G devices, access to information is coming faster and more assessable each day. Whether if you have an iPhone, Blackberry, Android, etc…you can access all the social networking sites, post and update, and even take pictures and post right inside the hospital walls.

2) Internal Brand Ambassadors – Employees are engaging with patients via social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and even geo-location apps like FourSquare.  They are using their mobile devices and finding other means to connect with patients outside of the firewalls. Building communities is important right now and there is value in allowing those conversations to foster inside the walls of the hospital rather than outside the walls.

3) Patients are Talking –  Patients and making status updates from inside the walls of the hospital. They are using Twitter and Facebook to tell family and friends medical updates of their loved ones. This is a great opportunity to try to engage or see the conversations in real time inside the walls of the hospital.

4) Geo-Location – Patients/Visitors of hospitals are updating with a location inside the walls of the hospital using Foursquare and Gowalla. They are telling the world they have just arrived for a procedure or picking up a loved one, stamping their location, and then describing the experience. There is value in engaging with these conversations.

5) Doctors are using the Internet to gather information – “A recent study by Google, 86% of U.S. physicians said they use the Internet to gather health, medical or prescription drug information. Internet technology allows physicians to also offer their opinions on medicine, or other matters, through blogs (including links to other sources of information) and to consult colleagues by e-mail and through social networking.” – via AMA in February 2010.

Bottomline…the argument is no longer about employee performance, it is whether you want to engage with the patient in real time. I will leave with this quote from the AMA in February 2010 – “Social networking has tripled in the past year, a Nielsen Company survey showed, and physicians have joined the social networking revolution. According to a survey by Medimix International, 34% of physicians use social media.”

Paul Levy, CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA gives an example conversation he had with someone inside a hospital concerning allowing Facebook to become available for hospital employees. This is a GREAT!

When I will not use FourSquare or Gowalla: Checks & Balances

The big debate and controversy is when people choose to tell the world when and where they are using Social Media. Basically checking in via Foursquare or Gowalla. Beyond this, using the geo-location option in Twitter via updates. So I have been thinking about when to use Foursquare and Gowalla to tell my location, and Twitter to tell what I am doing and where. My thoughts:

When I will not use Twitter, Foursquare, or Gowalla to update my status:

  1. When I am home – I will not allow these geo-location media’s to pinpoint my location at my house or say I am home and here it is on a map.
  2. When I am working with a client – unless it is used to educate the client via potential use of this technology.
  3. When I am at my family’s houses – I will not use geo-location to pinpoint my location. Their privacy is just as important as mine.
  4. When I am away from my house for an extended time and no one is there to watch the house. Even when I am on a vacation, I will not update my status using geo-location unless I am sure someone is watching the house.

Why have I sat back and made these distinctions? Well, last year I was robbed at my house in the middle of the night. I had over $13K in camera equipment stolen. The person only stole this equipment specifically and nothing else. They knew I where it was and watched my movements. The only way they knew my movements was based on some Twitter updates stating what I am doing and how I would be traveling. I do not want to disclose anymore, but after lots of research and retracing my movements…I know almost for certain that this happened because of my Twitter updates. I was new to the game and was not thinking through some of my comments and posts. I have learned a VALUABLE LESSON.

Have you sat down and thought through how and when you use Social Media’s and geo-locators? Here are some questions I think you should ask yourself or thoughts to ponder:

  1. When will I disclose my location via geo-locators?
  2. What places warrant updates, letting the wide world know where you are currently.
  3. Do you understand when you are updating your location at one place, you know that it means you are not somewhere else?
  4. Do you think there is an audience that can leverage the knowledge of your location to benefit them positively and impact you negatively.
  5. How can you benefit from this geo-location service? What benefit does it bring to your routine?

Geo-location is fun especially when checking into Starbucks, getting a badge, and then getting a discount. It is fun to find friends and others via geo-locators…it is like “being in the in-crowd.” But, can this fun new tool cause you more harm than good? I have learned and will continually learn how to leverage these fun tools and create a system of checks and balances for my daily use.

Am I “Mayor” of my own Social Media message?

With the awareness and interest raised for location based Social Media platforms/technologies like Foursquare and Gowalla, I have jotted down and exploration of thoughts. These thoughts and questions I have to think through myself; I have to answer these questions critically before moving forward with the use of these new location based platforms.

Some Thoughts I have been pondering and synthesizing:

  • Social Media outlets added to the “open source” movement that gives “small” people and organizations a voice.
  • Social Media transformed us (small people/organizations) as “thought leaders” to drive Internet traffic to our “motherships” for information.
  • Social Media platforms provided the “small” people/organizations an opportunity to create robust web properties competing with “big box” organizations.
  • Social Media platforms provided the awareness necessary to create a “mothership” portal where the majority of the marketing messages “flow” through driving traffic to engage with a consistent message.
  • Social Media technology and open source platforms allowed and empowered “small” people/organizations to compete in the messaging landscape with “big box” organizations.
  • Social Media has allowed those to use technologies to build “Tribes” creating movements to distribute a message around a community.

Some questions in my head personally and professionally:

  1. Why must “small” people/organizations be willing to use Social Media technologies to disclose locations?
  2. Does Social Media technologies disclosing locations hurt/degrade the value of the brand of the “small” people and organizations…or reinforce the brand of the “big box” organizations.
  3. Does location based Social Media technologies reinforce the “small” people/organizations as “thought leaders” empowering the reinforcement of the “big box” organization?
  4. Does location based Social Media technology reinforce the small individual people and organization “thought leaders” as “thought leaders” since they are proportionally the influencers for “bog box” brands?
  5. Have small people and organizations using Social Media platforms and location based technologies created a paradigm shift in perception transitioning those “small” people/organizations onto the same platform as “big box” organizations. Where does the influence lie and where will it lie in 10 years?

Who are the thought leaders?

Who really maximizes the true benefit of these location based platforms? Is it the groups publishing where they are located or is the organizations that are being recognized where this constituency base has chosen to locate and ultimately publicize? Some organizations are providing “rewards” for those soliciting their location using these technologies, but who is the thought leader here? Or do we care? Or is it just fun to say we are going to a movie and then to another place for a milkshake?

Organizations like hospitals might frame the benefit from these platforms with their marketing support staff providing their location especially for small doctors offices that lie under the umbrella of services. This is where organizations, “big box” organizations could benefit from internal staff providing location based advertising and raise awareness both from a public (business to consumer) and internal (business to business) position, informing other internal groups where and what is offered internally.

So what is the story behind these location based platforms? How are you using them? Are you doing more that just adding to the fad of saying what you are doing and where? Have you thought about the true marketing implications of these technologies and platforms? Are you telling your story or helping others with a bigger message? What are your thoughts? And will this become another place like Twitter where people get excited and then the honeymoon stage drops off like a bad relationship?