If you’re going to San Francisco be sure to check in

Standing with my arm in the air gripping a hand hold on a swaying train carriage, my wandering eyes noticed that many of my fellow commuters clutching smart phones were doing a lot more than just texting or listening to music. That’s when it hit me: with such a captive audience why don’t transport operators promote ways for passengers with smart phones and tablets to interact with advertisers or the transport system itself?

It could be as simple as a poster with a Twitter or Facebook address to encourage people to provide receive more information about products, or enter competitions, that appeal to commuters – such as travel, recruitment, coffee/lunch deals. Alternatively the transport operator could promote its own Twitter feed or app* for passengers to receive the latest travel information or provide real-time feedback.

One transport network that has embraced social media is 2009 San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), which uses Twitter and Facebook as a means to keep passengers informed and interested its services. But the jewel in the crown of BART’s digital campaign was its pioneering use of Foursquare.

In March 2009 BART became the first public transport organisation to partner with Foursquare to encourage patronage on the network by creating badges for users who checked in at stations before and after catching trains. The idea proved an instant success.  The Foursquare partnership also allowed BART to learn more about its users through the places and businesses they checked into before and after using the system and revealed what many people were using public transport for.

All this information could prove valuable for businesses that want to advertise at nearby stations to attract non-Foursquare users and, paradoxically, get some ads back on trains walls.


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