Image by stevegarfield via FlickrFoursquare and Gowalla are the LBS talk of the social media global village. On Twitter, at least 1 in 20 posts that fly by me may be a check-in. Okay, you may be wondering what the heck an LBS is. Location Based Service. Some, like Yelp, are related to providing reviews on local businesses so you can find places where you are or where you're going to be to visit, the reviews giving you some reasonable certainty that after a meal, you won't end up on your knees before the porcelain throne. Others, like Foursquare, use location like a game. You "check into" places using your smart phone and acquire points which are then redeemable for goods and services. So, at first site (pun), it could be intriguing to think about having your small nonprofit show up as a place to go in these location-based social media communities.
The Short Answer is "No."
The question is: So - Should I Engage My NP in LBS?
Full Disclosure: I don't like phones. I didn't get one until I was required to for a job I held, and even though I have a cell now, I seldom use it. So when the excitement started about smart phones and then LBS, I stuck my nose in the air and turned my head. And I've got tendinitis in all ten fingers, so texting is an idea whose time will never come for me. But, back to your small NP.
Say your NP advises small farms on organic growing practices. What benefit would an LBS give you or your stakeholders?
Post:Checking in at XYZ Organics. I got a pencil made from recycled dollar bills! FTW!
The Longer Answer is "Maybe."
You might effectively use Locations if your NP produced an art tour or poetry crawl were participants check in and exchange viewpoints on what they've seen or heard. Maybe they get awarded points over a series of tours and the "mayor of art town" gets a discount or free tickets to something.
Many, many retailers and brands are using LBS to effectively get people into their stores. It might work for your NP if you have a set location (a gallery or museum, for example) you'd love to see packed or maybe a group of locations (local jazz venues). You might even be able to partner with local businesses to award points that can be redeemed by area nonprofits, including yours.
I'm by no means an expert on this subject, since I'm clearly not a phone enthusiast (bad geek, no donut), so if you've been wondering about LBS, take your time and read up on how it's being used. (Posts like this one by Jason Falls have helped me.)
Right now, I'm not sure how LBS can help a small nonprofit, but the potential is there, as it is with any kind of tool. And if you can think of a way to use it to serve your mission, then obviously, the answer to the question becomes "Definitely."
If you've been successfully using LBS for your small nonprofit, then leave some breadcrumbs in the comments section for the rest of us to follow!