2012 was the International Year of the Co-operative, and its success in creating awareness of co-operatives worldwide has prompted the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) to call for a Co-op decade. By 2020, the goal is for co-operatives to become leaders in economic, social and environmental sustainability, a preferred business model, and the fastest growing form of enterprise. But, the ICA acknowledges that this is a strategy that they cannot move forward with alone. They state that in order for the Co-op decade “to be meaningful and effective, it needs to be taken up and endorsed by national bodies, by individual societies, and by all people who believe in the co-operative way of doing business”.
The next decade will require “bold initiatives and clear implementation plans”. I believe the answer will be social media. But let’s here consider what role a mobile social media application could play in these implementation plans.
The first step in creating awareness of co-operatives will be first to alert consumers of where they can find co-operatives. Geolocation apps will be vital to this phase of the plan. Naturally, Foursquare, being the leading location-based social network would be the mobile social media application of choice. With Foursquare, users can check into locations they have visited using their phones and when they do check in, they can alert their Facebook friends and Twitter followers of where they have been. According to Brian Honigman in SocialMedia Examiner, “Foursquare is the ideal platform to bridge the gap between your offline and online audience in an affordable and scalable way”. The opportunity for co-operatives on Foursquare is huge, but at the present it seems to be an opportunity that is largely being missed.
In my last post, I discussed how credit unions, financial co-operatives, were successfully using Facebook to spread brand awareness. They have been early adopters of social media and as such have been out in front of other co-ops. Many are on Foursquare, but check-ins are limited and engagement relatively low. That extends too to food co-ops. When I searched Foursaquare for co-operatives in NH, the only one that came up was the Concord Co-Op. They had limited company info and only 40 check-ins from 30 people.
There are two reasons why I see co-ops as not being successful with location based services such as Foursquare. First, they are not properly categorizing themselves. One of the key tenets of the co-operative movement is “Co-operation among co-operatives”. Credit Unions should categorize themselves as co-operatives, so should the Concord co-op, currently listed as Uncategorized. This would enable interested consumers to better see how the movement is represented in their area. The second reason, is that check-ins are not being rewarded. Co-operatives could take a page from this successful user Bright Eyes Family Vision Care. Despite being a non-traditional venue for check-ins (as co-operatives certainly are), the owner increased engagement and awareness by offering odd and exciting promos, such as homemade hot sauce.
If Co-operatives are to truly emerge as the fastest growing form of enterprise in this decade, they will need, first, to let people know where they are. Foursquare, a mobile social media application, is currently the best tool for them use.
Co-operatives unite and let the check-ins begin!