Mobile app showcases local businesses
Published: Monday, December 5, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 00:12
Public relations students at West Virginia University's Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism have worked to create a project that promotes social media and community through a geolocation-based mobile application called SCVNGR.
Twenty students enrolled in professor Jensen Moore's public relations writing and applications course this fall, worked on the project and brought SCVNGR to the Morgantown community.
"This is the first college community that this project has taken place in," Moore said.
SCVNGR is a popular mobile phone app that allows users to check in, complete challenges and "treks," earn points and earn rewards from businesses around Morgantown. The students personalized a version of the app for the Morgantown area.
"You get points for simply checking in, but it goes further by having users complete challenges at the businesses to receive more points," said Evan Bonnstetter, a public relations student and SCVNGR codeveloper. "After you receive points, you can redeem them for discounts and other rewards at the businesses."
Participants can check in at the Morgantown Ice Arena to receive points, complete a challenge by striking their best pose on the ice, post the picture to SCVNGR and earn even more points that can be redeemed for a free skate rental or a complimentary hot chocolate to enjoy at the establishment, he said.
Bonnstetter said with SCVNGR you can do more than check-in to locations, the main draw to applications like Foursquare. Users can complete different challenges within the businesses, or users can complete a "trek," which is a scavenger hunt across town involving businesses that are all involved with SCVNGR. The first person to complete a "trek" and its challenges earns a larger reward than they would at one business.
"This helps connect local businesses and allows them to work together on a bigger scale," Bonnstetter said.
Moore said the students involved in the project benefitted from the experience of creating the app.
"It's benefitting the students because they are learning how to create mobile promotions," Moore said. "More and more public relations and advertising are going to online, social media and mobile applications, so the fact that they're getting this experience and designing promotions for this geolocation-based application is going to set them apart from others in the field."
Bonnstetter said the application will also benefit local small businesses in Morgantown by encouraging users to frequent the vendors involved with the project.
"SCVNGR builds customer loyalty and helps businesses engage with their consumers and strengthen their consumer base," Bonnstetter said. "It's helping Morgantown by keeping us on the forefront of technology when it comes to social media and business."
The students were provided a grant to recruit businesses, Moore said, but many businesses were reluctant to participant with the app.
"We provide the businesses with free promotions, we designed the promotions for them, and we help them carry the promotions out," Moore said.
More than 25 small businesses in Morgantown are now using SCVNGR, including Black Bear Burritos, Dragonfly, and Side Pocket, the Morgantown Ice Arena, The Wow! Factory, Tonique's Trilogy and The Back Door Bar & Tavern. Students in the class are still recruiting businesses for the app.
"I think people are starting to use SCVNGR more and more," Bonnstetter said. "It's not huge yet, but it's a slow process to get something like this going. It's definitely picking up and gaining popularity, though."
The project is co-sponsored by SCVNGR and the International Town & Gown Association, an organization that focuses on creating a better relationship between colleges and communities.
"By having the ITGA partnering with this program, it will help foster a better relationship between students and the local businesses in the Morgantown community," Bonnstetter said.
WVU is the first college community to take part in this project.
Moore said she is pleased with the students' efforts and how well the project has turned out.
"This is a really great opportunity, as far as service-learning, for the PR students to give back to the Morgantown community, and I think that they've done an excellent job overall of doing that by creating promotions for small business and helping boost the local economy," Moore said.
For more information on the project, and to see what other local businesses now offer rewards through SCVNGR, visit the project's Facebook page "SCVNGR in Morgantown."