Location based services like Gowalla may seem like a natural fit for the local bakery, but if your brand isn’t focused on a brick and mortar presence, there are still ways to make this social network work for you.

The likes of NASA, Red Bull, and TOMS Shoes have leveraged Gowalla’s tools to create brand awareness and market their products in an engaging and interactive way.

If you want to try promoting your brand with Gowalla, you just need to sign up!

Create a Gowalla Account as a Regular User

Head to www.gowalla.com and click the “Join Gowalla” button at the top right-hand side of the page. You can sign up with an email address or authenticate using Facebook.

Sign Up as a Brand on Gowalla

Next, you need to decide if you want to be friends with users or be a brand that users follow. By creating a regular account you can be friends with anyone on Gowalla. In order to make the change to be followed, you’ll have to contact its business development team to switch the account type. It will take a few days for them to get back to you.

The basic Gowalla functionality will remain the same whether or not you change from the friend model to the follow model. However, if you want to explore some of the tools explained below you may have to convert your account to the follow model.

If you need some insight into what’s involved in creating a Gowalla account for a bricks and mortar business, read our related post How to Claim Your Business on Gowalla.

Use Trips to Get Users Interacting with Your Brand’s Story

Gowalla - TOMS Shoes TripAs a brand — or as a user — you can create “Trips.” Trips are made up of multiple locations and can be used to tell a story relating to your brand.

TOMS Shoes used this functionality to tell the story of its history. TOMS Shoes included details like where it stored its inventory in its early days, and its favorite place for happy hour.

Create your own trip by heading to Gowalla’s Trips page and clicking on the orange “Create a Trip” button. Fill out the trip form with a name, category (e.g. art tour, pub crawl, etc.), and start filling in the spots of your tour; you can add as few as three and up to 25 locations.

Gowalla Trips allow you to set criteria for a completed trip, such as “All spots must be visited,” or, “3 spots must be visited.” There’s another useful feature: you can save the trip before you publish it to the community. That will allow you some time to edit and refine.

Gowalla - Toms pinsWhen your friends or followers complete a trip they’ll be rewarded with a pin. Gowalla offers 16 pins (based on the category you choose for your trip) for any person who creates a trip.

But if you’re looking to have more of  a brand presence for your Trips, you can contact Gowalla’s business development team for custom pin work.

Customize Your Events

Gowalla - EventsAs a brand, holding and sponsoring events is often part of your marketing mix.

With Gowalla, you can extend the event participation online by commissioning Gowalla to create a Custom Stamp for your event.

Stamps vary in cost and availability, so you’ll have to be diligent if you want to get one. Contact Gowalla to be notified of price and availability.

Create Virtual Items Your Followers Can Collect

Gowalla Virtual EventsAnother layer of engagement you can explore (with the help of Gowalla’s business development team) is Virtual Items.

Every user’s account comes with a “pack,” and on your travels you can collect and trade virtual goods.

Recently, Tazo Tea and Whole Foods partnered to offer virtual Tazo Tea bottles as collected items whenever a Gowalla user checked in to a Whole Foods Market, creating awareness of the tea brand and engagement with the supermarket.

Participate in the Community

Finally, if you want your followers to engage with your content, show them that you’re engaged. Download one of the Gowalla apps for your smart phone and start checking in, posting photos, adding highlights, and completing Trips — especially the ones you’ve created.

Are You Using Location Based Services to Market Your Brand?

Gowalla offers a lot of tools that allow for creative brand executions. Feel free to share your tips, ideas, and success stories in the comments below.

[Image credit: The Relevant Authorities]