AUSTIN (KXAN) - Gowhat? Gowhere? Gowalla!
The Austin-based company, Gowalla , is pushing its way into politics across the nation. With a 2012 goal in mind, staff members have recently created social media tools for "politicians and people to more closely connect around the issues that are important to them."
Pia Arthur, Gowalla's marketing manager, said a handful of candidates and politicians have already started utilizing the idea to promote their campaigns this election.
"We just started the political part of Gowalla a few months ago, so it's still new," Arthur said. "But, so far, it's really taken off, and we're really excited to see where it goes from here."
Gowalla is a location-based social networking service where users 'check-in' at different locations. They can do so through a mobile device or the website. Users show up to the University of Texas Tower, for instance, find the location on the mobile app, then check-in. It allows others using Gowalla to know where they're at and consider joining.
The difference between this service and something like a Facebook update is that Gowalla is all about your location, according to Arthur.
"People on Gowalla will get items or badges from the places they check in, so people can know where they're at," she said. "It's also their way to take a memory away from that place or event."
That's where Gowalla falls into the political realm, the way it differs from similar services like Four Square. Gowalla has opened up its "Events" feature to politicians as a way for candidates to "educate voters and stay connected," according to the Gowalla website.
"You will now be able to follow some of your favorite politicians on Gowalla to learn where they are while on the campaign trail and what images/comments people are sharing," the site says. "Plus, if you attend an event from one of the politicians using Gowalla, you will receive a custom Gowalla Passport Stamp."
When the political side of Gowalla launched on Aug. 4, three politicians became part of the launch: Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), Gov. Charlie Crist (I-FL), and Jim Ward (R-AZ), who is running for Congress. Since the launch, in addition to Perry, Paul Workman, the Republican running for Texas House District 47, has joined the Gowalla universe.
"On Paul's campaign we are using every tool we can to connect with voters," said Workman's campaign manager Jennifer Harris. "Gowalla is just one of the many new technologies we are using to reach out to voters, including Facebook and Twitter. It is especially great to use Gowalla since it's an Austin company that is creating jobs in our community, just like Paul Workman has for years."
As of Tuesday, Workman had only 19 followers on Gowalla, but Harris points out how new the political service is. Even with that small following, the abilities of those 19 people to inform and engage other possible supporters can grow.
At UT's LBJ School of Public Affairs' Center for Politics and Governance, Interim Director Sherri Greenberg, who also served in the Texas House for 10 years, said she can see more social networking devices like Gowalla taking prominence in upcoming elections.
"They've almost taken over direct mail," Greenberg said. "But people should remember to seek out other politicians and candidates beyond those they're already engaged with through social media. That way they can consider different policies and points of view."
Social media has become an increasing part of campaign efforts throughout the nation over the past decade. In this election cycle alone, the usage is more apparent than ever.
In addition to Gowalla, Gov. Perry's campaign utilizes Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and phone texting. His Democratic opponent, former Houston mayor Bill White currently uses Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.
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