The Virtual Passport

The Virtual Passport

gowalla app logo picture

Gowalla. The first thing that comes to mind when I hear that is "monkey" - a rather large monkey actually. Unfortunately (or fortunately), Gowalla is far from this; in fact, it's not a mammal at all.

Gowalla is a location-based social networking game. Much like Foursquare, Gowalla is about discovering new places and sharing them with your friends while being rewarded for doing so. The best way I have heard this explained is as an “addictive, virtual scavenger hunt!” There are many possibilities in using this location based service; my personal favorite is when I am in a new city and need to find somewhere to eat. I can turn it on and, viola, I can see all the different places around me! Gowalla is also great for businesses that are listed. It is free marketing; a billboard sign saying next exit in a user's hand.

Gowalla has been around since 2007 and is one of the smaller location-based services around, but is very much worth getting to know. To get an account, simply sign up at Gowalla , download the app to you Andriod, iPhone, WebOS, Blackberry, or visit

Even better, if you have an Android phone you can barcode scan this image and it will take you to the app download link.
gowalla qr code

You can then add friends, find locations (which are called “spots”) look at your recent activity, see nearby trips, and view your passport. The first two (friends and spots) are pretty self-explanatory, but let's dive into trips and passports.

Trips are a link of up to 20 spots that are either pre-made user-created. Trips may be:

  • walks at the zoo
  • pub crawls
  • cities to visit
  • landmarks

A great example is what Whole Foods did for their 30th birthday. They sent people around to different Austin locations to collect items through Gowalla.

Your passport holds all the relevant information you've gathered during your time on Gowalla.
You will see your:

  • stamps
  • pins
  • friends
  • photos
  • trips
  • bookmarks

As well as your recent check-ins and items you’re carrying, you will receive stamps for you travels and pins for your trip accomplishments. The best way to figure it all out is to dive in and get started, but hopefully that gives you a good foundation to start on!

Business for the businessman!

On the business side, Gowalla does not have a “mayorship” like Foursquare, but they do offer great and exciting deals to everyone (instead of one person)!

For example, at the product launch of the Eye-Fi memory card devices this past summer, Gowalla offered specials when a user checked in at a Best Buy or an Apple Store. Each user was prompted with a “Did I Win?” image and, with one touch of a button, Gowalla told you if you were 1 of the 500 to win a $75 card giveaway! Giveaways and deals such as these give the players an even playing ground. It's a win-win situation for the customer and business.

As a business, you can also do things such as creating a trip, an event, or upload pictures to get users involved with your venue. A great example for hotels is to offer up vacant rooms in one of these check-ins. You fill a room and gain a new customer.

Businesses can also offer giveaways (like NY Nets tickets), or partner with Gowalla during special events (like how Chevy and Gowalla partnered up for at SWSX 2010). Then there are smaller local venues like Sweat Leaf Tea in Austin that have great offers as well.

All of these businesses are generating a buzz around themselves by using a little joint marketing through this application!

Gowalla may be on the smaller side of users, but I believe that with the right awareness, it could grow. It's all about adding in a good pinch of fun and taking gaming to a whole different level. I know I can’t wait to take my first “trip!"

What are your opinions on Gowalla for customer and business use? Any success stories out there?