Radio Shack reminds me of a lot of the local, scrappy nonprofits I work with. The Shack is big -- nearly 4,500 company-operated stores -- but it has a local feel to it. Maybe it's because you'll find them in local malls, strip malls and downtown business districts.
With competitors such as Best Buy, Walmart and Amazon.com, Radio Shack is certainly an underdog. It's like saying your competitors this holiday season are St. Jude Children's Research, The Salvation Army and Toys for Tots. Radio Shack knows what it's like to be constantly competing against the big guys to eke out a profit.
One area in which Radio Shack is winning big is on Foursquare. It started the summer of 2010 when Radio Shack joined the location-based service. It accelerated over the holidays that year with its Holiday Heroes campaign on Foursquare.
In just 60 days Radio Shack went from zero followers to 20,000.
Last spring, the chain announced that Foursquare customers spent three times more than regular customers.
Today, The Shack's Foursquare following has grown to 63,000. If last December's success is a yardstick, they'll recruit even more followers with their So Right holiday promotion this month. For each badge earned, RadioShack will donate $1 to LIVESTRONG, the cancer charity founded by Radio Shack spokesman Lance Armstrong.
The good news is that nonprofits share more with Radio Shack than just my sympathies. Like The Shack's eclectic product mix that has somehow kept the chain in business, its Foursquare success is all about having the right mix of audience, location, marketing and good old fashioned DIY know-how.
Does your nonprofit have what it takes to be the next "Shack" on Foursquare?
Are your supporters inclined to use Foursquare? Don't be fooled into thinking that all those grandmothers you thought shopped at Radio Shack suddenly jumped onto Foursquare. It didn't happen. The Shack tapped into a natural, existing audience for the service: smartphone-toting Generation Yers that know more about apps than algebra. Radio Shack isn't quite the DIY electronics store it was when I was a kid. It sells a lot of phones now and attracts a younger crowd.
Are you a Foursquare expert? Radio Shack prides itself on its knowledgeable salesforce. Not only can they match the right phone to your needs and budget, but they can show you how to download the Foursquare app and how to use it when you shop with them.
Are you active on Foursquare and know how to use it? Or are you as clueless about Foursquare as most people are? You need to be the expert so you can spread the news to your supporters.
Are you active on social media in general? Radio Shack just didn't sign up for Foursquare, they use everything, which supports their Foursquare efforts. The Shack has combined Foursquare with Twitter's Promoted Trends and positioned Facebook as its social epicenter. Foursquare is tagged on their blog, YouTube videos, e-mails and some of its Web campaigns.
Is your nonprofit already blogging, tweeting and Facebooking? Your nonprofit's social media strategy shouldn't begin and end with Foursquare. You need to have the whole package.
Are you focusing your Foursquare promotion on deals, specials and discounts? Radio Shack is, which explains why they're doing so well on Foursquare. They're not sharing "important dates in Shack history" on the service. They're offering "Check-in Specials" and "Newbie Specials" and special offers for mayors. It's all about saving dough (or, in the case of the So Right badge, helping a great cause).
You probably see the sense of offering a special on Foursquare if your nonprofit is a museum or historical site. But any nonprofit can have a special offer when it's tied to a cause marketing promotion. If you're working on a campaign with a chain of department stores in your area, offer shoppers a check-in special on Foursquare that includes a donation to your cause. You'll learn what The Shack learned: people love deals and will even embrace new technology to get them.
Are you spreading your net wide? Radio Shack isn't waiting for shoppers to come into their stores to check-in to Foursquare. Users of the service don't have to follow Radio Shack to be alerted of its special offers. If one of its stores is the closest available merchant deal on the platform, users will see a "Special Nearby" icon in the upper right-hand corner of their screen. When they click, offer details and the store's location take over the screen.
Are you tapping the foot traffic around your nonprofit? That's why they call Foursquare location-based marketing. The marketing happens where your supporters are.
Are you sure you can't afford Foursquare? Radio Shack loves Foursquare because it's free. Using the platform, creating specials and rewarding mayors costs nothing. Badges aren't free but you don't have to start with them.
What are you waiting for?
Is your nonprofit "The Shack" of the nonprofit world? I'd love to hear how you plan to use Foursquare in the coming new year!
Follow Joe Waters on Twitter: www.twitter.com/joewaters