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Cause Marketing in Real Life: Foursquare

Estrella Rosenberg’s goal was to raise awareness, not dollars, when she registered her two charities on Foursquare in April 2010. The charities, Big Hearts Little Hands and One Hundred Squared, focus on congenital heart defects.

Estrella and her team started by creating a hashtag, #100X100, which stood for 1 in 100 (the number of children born with a heart defect) on the 100th day of the year, April 10. Then they recruited volunteers to commit to a grass-roots effort to use Foursquare to spread the cause’s message.

The hashtag on Foursquare wasn’t necessarily for Foursquare users. Its main value was that when checking in, many users would share their check-in with their followers on Twitter. The hashtag on Twitter was an easy way for supporters to highlight their support of the program.

It also gave Twitter followers an easy link to get more information about it and gave Estrella and her team a powerful metric to measure the impact of the campaign.

The night before the target date, volunteers added this tip to 600 Foursquare locations: “1 in 100 children are born w/ a heart defect. Pulse-Ox screening saves lives — you can, too! Check in with the hashtag #100X100”.

On the awareness front, Estrella was very pleased with the results. One of the benefits of using Foursquare is that it connects with Twitter and Facebook. This means that one check-in on Foursquare could end up on two more platforms.

But something else happened.

A woman saw the #100X100 hashtag and offered to give the cause $1 for each time the hashtag was used on April 10th. By 11:45 p.m. that evening, the hashtag had been used 11,703 times on Foursquare, Twitter, and Facebook. The donor was so impressed she gave the charity $25,000, which was enough to pay for 12 surgeries in developing countries.

Estrella’s Foursquare program for the charities she founded raised awareness and money and saved 12 lives. It also didn’t cost her a dime, and she executed the entire program in just a few days.

The program is an excellent example of a cause using a location-based service as is and leveraging its connection with other social networks. To give this program a cause marketing twist, enter tips — suggestions, comments, and recommendations that you leave behind for other users — for your business partner’s stores so that when consumers check in, they see the company-cause connection and how they can help.

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