Over the past couple of years location-based applications have become more and more popular with those using mobile devices. The idea of these apps is that from a mobile device a user can check-in and tell others where he or she is – a movie theatre, a store, a restaurant, a library, and so on. The people behind the location-based services make the check-in worth the user’s time because of the game-like features and virtual and non-virtual incentives integrated into the apps. For example, with brightkite the person with the most check-ins at a particular location gets to be mayor of that location. Establishments that know how brightkite works can offer rewards to mayors. For example, a library might give the brightkite mayor of the institution a discount on copying costs. With FourSquare user rewards come in the form of badges. For example, a FourSquare user can check into a specific Starbucks a certain number of times and earn the barista badge. Mayorships and badges appear in the user’s profile on the service. That means others can learn about the rewards earned. Rewards can also be announced via Twitter and other social networks. As I mentioned in a 2008 blog post, the possibilities for location-based applications in library services to teens are many.
Now there’s a new way to check-in, and that’s application and web-based tools that give users the chance to check-in when participating in an entertainment related activity – reading a book, watching a TV show, viewing a movie, and so on.
While planning a program with/for teens, it’s always important to ask yourself questions your teens will ask: “Is it too much like school?”,’ “Why should I participate?”,’ and perhaps the most important, “What’s in it for me?”
While giving back and doing for the benefit of others is all well and good, teens often find themselves with too many activities and not enough time. They pick what to spend their free time doing, and often that last question helps them decide. Will they get community service hours? Or something to put on the resume/college application?’ But often, it can be as simple as a reward for participating.
I am sure that while teens like to read, many of them also participate in summer reading programs in order to have a chance a some great prizes, as so many of us offer in our’ programs. But with our shrinking (or non existent) budgets, how can we provide incentives teens will want?
In today’s New York Times there is a short article about the use of cellphones as a coupon delivery mechanism. What an interesting idea. And, what an even more interesting idea, when put within the lens of a library and serving teens within the library. For example, what if via their cellphones teens could access a coupon for:
- A percentage off on making photocopies, or even a waiver on paying for copying?
- A percentage off on their fines, or even a waiver of their fines?
- An invitation to be one of the first people to be able to checkout a new book of a favorite author? (Or a new CD from a favorite musician, a new DVD with a favorite actor, a new game within a favorite genre, etc.)
- The opportunity to be one of the first to try out a new program or service at the library? Do you want to know if teens are interested in something? Send them a coupon invite, via their cellphones, to try something out and let the redemption of the coupons fill you in on what their interests are.