, , , , , , ,

This semester, my Public Relations Writing and Applications students are completing a service-learning project designed to improve Morgantown small-business revenues by incorporating SCVNGR, a geolocation-based mobile application, into their promotions.

SCNVGR, two-screen shot of retail store challenge.

I envisioned that the task would be an easy one. After all, none of the small-business owners have to pay for the mobile challenges, treks, or rewards offered through SCVNGR, nor do they have to design them. The PR students do all the work for them. Then, after the promotions are up and running the PR students write news releases, feature stories, pitch letters, etc. to get each small-business free publicity. I thought the hardest part would be pinning down small-business owners for meetings. I was wrong.

It seems that Morgantown small-business owners are not very familiar with SCVNGR — or it’s competition, Foursquare. This was surprising as a large part of Morgantown revolves around West Virginia University and college students are HUGE users of mobile phones as well as gaming applications. This meant that the hardest part of this task was that students had to explain (often multiple times and in the minutest detail) what location based applications and gamification were.

Sometimes the small-business owner had heard of, or were at least a bit familiar with, SCVNGR‘s competition, Foursquare (which didn’t always work to our advantage).

Foursquare, two-screen shot of check-in and "tip" posting.

So, I decided to ask my Advertising Media Analysis students to take a few weeks to compare the two different geolocation-based mobile applications to see what they thought. My end-goal was to help find ways for the PR students to “sell” SCVNGR services to small-business owners.

Here are the highlights of their findings:


  • “After I started getting the hang of this application it was easy to see how so many people are addicted to “check in” everywhere they go.”
  • “I really enjoyed that if I checked in enough I would earn new badges.”
  • “I like Foursquare because it seems more venues use it.”
  • “With Foursquare you can easily check in at different locations and earn free stuff.”
  • “I’m more prone to visiting a restaurant where I know I can get a discount rather than a restaurant where I buy something at full price. By earning discounts on Foursquare in a college town like Morgantown you have a good chance of increasing sales to WVU student looking to get a dollar or two off their receipt.”
  • “This application seemed like a friend who could give me advice on where to go.”


  • “SCVNGR is easier to understand because its main page has all the different ways to check in.”
  • “SCVNGR seems to be focused more on businesses and Foursquare seems to be focused on finding new places and doing new things.”
  • “With SCVNGR I had to check in at a place and do a challenge to receive some kind of reward. Generally the rewards from SCVNGR were more tangible, a coupon or a discount, while most of my rewards from Foursquare were just badges.”
  • “I think that SCVNGR has a better application for advertising and promotion… SCVNGR is an advertiser’s dream because it requires people to buy products or at least come into contact with them in order to get what they want.”
  • “SCVNGR offers a better variety of activities at each check in location.”
  • “SCVNGR creates a more interactive environment.”
  • “The rewards aspect of SCVNGR is more appealing to the advertising/promotions side in comparison  to the pure competitive nature of earning points on Foursquare.”
  • “If you are looking to create a buzz to a level where it will actually generate new business then I would highly recommend that you check out SCVNGR.”
  • “SCVNGR has a call to action that Foursquare is missing.”
  • “I like that the application tries to further involve the user past a simple check in.”

Overall, both advertising and public relations students thought that geolocation-based mobile applications were a great new media to utilize.

  • “I think geolocation-based mobile applications are a really great idea to get people interacting in places that they may not usually visit.”
  • “I think geolocation-based mobile applications are fun and useful once you figure out how to use it effectively.”
  • “Overall I think these geolocation-based mobile applications are a great idea just because it causes others to interact with one another with comments about what they think is good and not.”

All of these findings were quite useful… and inevitably have become part of many of the PR groups’ pitches to potential clients. This project is ending soon. Follow it on Facebook and Twitter (pr_324).