Top 10 Reasons to GOwalla and Forget FoursquareI LOVE Gowalla! But I wasn’t born that way. I started off using Foursquare, gobbling up all my mayorships before that platform had hit critical mass. Just as my quick love affair with the square hit a plateau, I was forced to sign-up with Gowalla as research for my article on LBS deals. I was skeptical and resentful that I had to spend time on yet another platform. On top of that, Gowalla had the smallest user base (just under 500K) – so from a marketers perspective, my thoughts were ‘why bother?’ Well, that initial research was almost 6 months ago and I have been avidly using Gowalla ever since.

Questions to Consider Before You Commit

There are some great reasons to try Gowalla for yourself and I have them outlined below. But before I dive into why Gowalla works for me, I’d like to review what to consider before committing to a check-in platform. The idea for this post actually originated from a discussion at a recent May 5th shindig. A digital marketing student asked me which check-in platform she should be using. She wanted to make sure to choose the “right one,” in order to prevent managing multiple check-in accounts. A lively discussion ensued with most participants falling into 2 camps: Gowalla and Foursquare.

My take-away from that encounter is that each platform meets different needs. Understanding what you want to get out of the tool and the reasons you want to engage are key to determining the right tool for you. Some questions to ask yourself before making the commitment:

  • Are you only looking for discounts, deals and promotions?
  • Which platform are your close friends using?
  • Are you interested in discovering new locations?
  • Do you want to be actively marketed to while using the application?

And if you don’t want to take my word for it, I managed to find an expert willing to back me up. Co-author of Location Based Marketing for Dummies, Mike Schneider, provided his insights on this LBS debate:

LBS apps manufacture serendipity in many ways and people choose LBS for many reasons among them: Social utility (keeping up with where people are), Deals, Loyalty programs, Discovery.

Gowalla promotes discovery through categorized highlights and pictures. Its beautifully designed to be your virtual passport and is a lot more open than foursquare giving you more potential to meet people and see who has been where. It also has an iPad app that takes advantage of the devices features.

Without further ado…My Top 10

Alright. So I’ve covered my ass by giving the ‘each tool meets different needs’ speech – now to the good stuff. Here are the reasons why Gowalla GOES BIG and Foursquare needs to GO home!

1) Josh Williams, Gowalla CEO – Gowalla has a young CEO from Austin that claims there’s more to our lives than ‘gamification.’ Check out this interview with the Guardian’s Jemima Kiss for a closer look at this Austin hipster.

2) Update Facebook Places, FOURSQUARE, Twitter and even Tumblr with one Gowalla check-in. This was the feature that converted me. I was spending WAY too much time checking in on multiple platforms. Using Gowalla allows me to keep my Foursquare mayorships, tweet my location and feed my Facebook friends all with one check-in. AWESOME!

3) View your friends’ activities on Foursquare and Facebook Places from within the Gowalla interface. Got friends spread out across multiple platforms? Gowalla allows you to view your friends check-ins on Foursquare and Facebook places without leaving the app.

4) You’re not a fan of direct marketing. Unlike Foursquare, Gowalla doesn’t pimp itself out to every business wanting to cash-in on your check-in. They don’t clutter up the interface with coupons, specials, etc. Instead, they opt to work with brands to offer rewards to loyal customers in new ways.

5) Newly created iPad app. Foursquare doesn’t have one yet. As Mike Schnieder outlines in his recent post, the app is beautifully designed and features fun trips from around the world. You can browse through user-generated lists of themed locations like the best coffee shops in Seattle or the ‘must-stop’ locals in North Beach.

6) Your Gowalla passport. Just like a real passport, your virtual passport documents all the cool places you’ve been and badges you have earned. It’s a one-stop shop for those trip highlights that you hope to never forget. Gowalla awards users ‘pins’ that reflect meeting a specific benchmark. For example, I was just awarded the ‘Sweat it out’ pin for checking-in at my gym 5 times. How’s that for extra motivation?

7) Beautiful interface. It’s no surprise that Gowalla CEO Josh Williams has a design background. The Gowalla team has created a mobile app interface that’s as delightful to look at as the places you are documenting.

8) Custom stamps. Part of what makes the interface so visually interesting are the custom stamps for locations. Offered in batches, Gowalla sells the right for a location owner to buy a custom designed stamp.

9) Discover new places with ‘Trips.’ Gowalla users can browse a collection of check-in locations recommended by the likes of National Geographic, USA Today, Disney and the entire Gowalla user base.

10) Souvenirs. Gowalla will randomly award users virtual items that can be stored in a virtual back-pack and dropped of at a check-in location. These souvenirs can be swapped, collected and left behind as a permanent marker for another Gowalla user to stumble upon. Some of these items are even redeemable for real-world rewards.

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