I’m baaaaaack with another dose of SCVNGR!.

Actually, I moved — to Louisiana. However, I am back this semester with another SCVNGR project thanks again to an amazing grant opportunity from SCVNGRU.

Last semester I wrapped up the SCVNGR at West Virginia University (Morgantown, WV) project. The students were split into groups focused on adding for-profit clients in the categories of: restaurants, bars, services, entertainment and retail. In the beginning each group had to sign up 10 clients for each category. A task that was seemingly simple — after all, the accounts were free, the students were going to create the promotions for the client, and they were going to get each client media coverage. However, we soon discovered that even though something is free (and we would do all the legwork) clients were hesitant to sign up. SCVNGR, as well as other geolocation-based mobile gaming applications, were such a “new” concept in Morgantown that clients didn’t want to sign up.

Also, it took students sooooooooo long to get clients on board (we eventually had to limit the project to five clients signed up for each category) that they had so little time to concentrate their efforts on getting them media coverage about the project/SCVNGR. The class was PR Writing and Applications, therefore more of the focus should have been on the media coverage aspect.

So, this semester I am at Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communication in Baton Rouge, LA with a different take on the project. Instead of multiple clients, each group of PR Writing students will approach ONE Baton Rouge non-profit and set up a TREK for that client. They will design multiple CHALLENGES (e.g., take a photo, list your favorite, answer a question, etc.) for smartphone owners to complete at that non-profit. Once they sign up their ONE CLIENT the groups get to spend the rest of the semester focusing on a “mini-campaign” to get that client media coverage.

It’s not unheard of for mobile gaming applications to be used by non-profits. SCVNGR has successfully been used by the following non-profits:

The class is a bit overwhelmed at this point, but are starting to get excited about the possibilities this gives them. We are the only class in the U.S. that has been awarded this type of SCVNGR grant making them unique going into the workplace. They will already know how to set up mobile promotions, get audience engagement and promote a non-profit using a new type of digital technology. Employers should love this!

The Value of SCVNGR to Small Town Economies

Big cities get the coolest stuff. They get up-scale stores like Tiffany, Burberry and Coach. They have operas, museums and Broadway shows. People in big cities get to use technology first too. Mobile applications like Groupon, Living Social, Foursquare, SCVNGR and LevelUp get released first in big cities and then “trickle-down” to small towns (if the small town is lucky).

People often travel great distances from small towns to big cities for shopping, entertainment and technology — after all, you can’t get the “good” stuff in small towns, can you?

Not so fast…

SCVNGR has been doing a great job of promoting stuff in big towns. Their national clients are doing some of the following promotions:

Universities are getting in on the SCVNGR action too, using the geolocation-based mobile application SCVNGRU to move students, faculty, staff and alumni across campuses:

But does that mean that SCVNGR is just for big cities or universities? No.

Local businesses, entertainment venues, and city organizations are beginning to use SCVNGR and see some great results. They are attracting new customers, improving relationships with existing customers, and getting people excited about what they have to offer. Just a few local establishments successfully using SCVNGR in their promotion strategy are:

A recent article suggests that local businesses strongly benefit from using mobile to understand their customers — from the one-time shopper to the loyalist. Mobile applications like SCVNGR give small businesses information about who their customers are. In addition, the loyalty rewards offered by challenges and treks increases engagement, interaction and repeat customers.

“This is the first time in history when small businesses don’t feel like the Internet is a trick, and see it as a tool to gain more users or better relationships with their current customers” says David Tisch, investor & managing director of TechStars NYC.

The project my public relations writing and applications students are working on is accomplishing the following:

  • Introducing local, small business owners to a new promotion technology.
  • Creating mobile promotions for small businesses to get more college students into local establishments.
  • Building relationships with small business owners — letting them know that college students are interested in helping them out. Thereby giving back to the local community.

Good things really can be found in small towns. Many small business owners just may not know what is available to them. Technology needs to be introduced to small business owners in attempts to improve local economies.

SCVNGR may be more important to a small town business than it is to the bottom lines of large, national chains. Small businesses rely more upon repeat consumers. They need loyalty to remain in business. One-time customers — for example, travelers checking out local shops — don’t necessarily result in consistent sales that small businesses need to stay afloat.

SCVNGR helps let people know what’s available, what deals are to be had, and who else is doing “stuff.”  This is increasingly important as it appears as though using location-based applications is the “new” way to increase traffic for local businesses.