Crist and Perry Test Gowalla Check-Ins for Political Events

Political campaigns are using display ads, mobile apps, Facebook pages, and Twitter, so it’s no surprise they see potential in location-based check-in services. Gowalla is hoping political campaigns follow the leads of Senate hopeful Charlie Crist and Texas Governor Rick Perry in using offerings it introduced today.

Gowalla, a service that allows people to check-in at and share locations and events with friends, noticed an interest from political campaigns in using the service, and as a result created a political category for “Gowalla Passport Holders” to create events in the system associated with election campaigns and advocacy-related events.

gowalla-politicalThe Charlie Crist for US Senate campaign, for instance, is using a custom stamp for use during rallies, fundraisers, town hall meetings, or other campaign trail events. The goal is to show the momentum behind a candidate when people display the emblems through their Gowalla pages, or through integrations with Twitter and Facebook.

According to the company, candidates can allow anyone to follow them so supporters can keep up virtually with their campaign whistle stops (in-person or otherwise).

“Jim Ward checked in at Tele-Town Hall Meeting,” stated a recent post accompanied by a custom campaign stamp from the Arizona Republican, who is running for the state’s U.S. District 5 Congressional seat.

Users can upload images from events, or make comments, pushing them out on Twitter or Facebook, said Josh Williams, Gowalla co-founder and CEO. He also said that with some back-end tinkering, campaigns could enable a stream of check-in information on their own sites using Gowalla’s open API.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida has used Gowalla to create custom “trips” to demonstrate the impact of politically-manipulated redistricting on elections. One 90-minute trip, for instance, makes three stops along Florida’s I-95, and, according to the ACLU, passes “through all seven U.S. House Districts that cross I-95 in South Florida.” The trip description on Gowalla adds, “Voting YES on Amendments 5 and 6 would make legislators take into consideration existing, sensible geographic boundaries to draw contiguous, fair districts.”

Digital political strategist Jordan Raynor, president of Tampa, Florida’s Direct Media Strategies, believes location-based check-in services like Gowalla and Foursquare could have an impact closer to election day – and on election day itself.

“I see the value of these networks to help encourage people to get out and vote more than I see the benefit to partisan political campaigns for mobilizing supporters,” he told ClickZ News. “Location-based social networks such as Foursquare, Gowalla, SCVNGR and a whole score of others have a tremendous opportunity to promote civic participation on November 2.”

In fact, Raynor has promoted his “I Voted” Foursquare badge idea to the company through a petition using Twitter petition service “Foursquare should create an ‘I Voted’ badge for anyone who checks-in at an official polling place on Election Day or during Early Voting. Sign the petition today!” he posted on Twitter recently. Around 450 people have signed and tweeted the petition message.

“The data visualization and mapping potential of these Election Day check-ins is very exciting,” Raynor added.

At the moment, said Gowalla’s Williams, his firm’s services are free to political campaigns. In the future, for advanced campaign event customization, he said, Gowalla “may have to charge simply as a matter of scale.”

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