Bringing Gowalla to Your Site

2767_0931061454738_thumb1_thumb[1] It’s no great secret that I am a Gowalla fanatic. Out of all of the geo-social apps on the market today (Foursquare, Brightkite, and Loopt) I see Gowalla as the premier app.  As soon as Gowalla gets it’s Blackberry app going full steam I think we are all going to see it steal a lot of market share from Foursquare.  To position yourself to be ready for the great Gowalla explosion you might want to consider leveraging your Gowalla account on your website or blog.  Fortunately Gowalla has an API that will allow you to roll your own integration if you are a developer, but if you are not a programmer this might present a challenge.

Fortunately for WordPress users there are already a few really nice Gowalla plugins starting to show up from various developers in the community.  I am going to touch on a few of these and give you some insight as to how I think they can best be used.

  • WP-Walla: This is probably my favorite plugin so far for integrating your Gowalla checkins into your blog.  I actually have it running on this website in the sidebar.  One day when I am able to sit down and do a redesign of this site it’s going to have a much more prominent location.  This plugin allows you to present your most recent checkins in a sidebar widget.  It’s a really clean plugin that has a lot of flexibility.  You can exclude the Gowalla icon if you want, however I think it looks cool to have it there.  You can also limit how many checkins you want displayed.  Based on your vertical real estate you might want to have 3 or 4 locations stacked in your sidebar.  Each checkin is also linked back to Gowalla’s main site.  I highly recommend this plugin.
  • GoWPWalla: This is another really nice Gowalla plugin that pretty much does the same thing.  I think it might have some additional functionality w/ it as well but for me I think the out of the box layout and design of the sidebar widget takes up too much vertical real estate.  One thing that this plugin does if you are a location is that it also allows you to display recent check-ins at your location.  There are some great screenshots here if you are interested in checking this one out.  I haven’t spent a lot of time w/ this plugin so I don’t know a whole lot about it other than to say it’s pretty freaking sweet.
  • Gowalla Spotter: This plugin displays activity in a Gowalla Spot in a WordPress Post or Page. It uses the Gowalla API and requires the unique Spot ID saved in a custom field in WordPress.  While custom fields might not be the easiest thing in the world to explain to clients, it could still be pretty useful if you are a developer and you are deploying pages for them.  I really like how this looks on a page.
  • I am sure that as time goes on there will be plenty of other Gowalla related plugins in the plugin directory but right now these 3 should give us all something we can use to get started sharing our geo-social content with our visitors.


  1. steventrotter says

    Awesome, I'm so adding this to the @JoBoCoWo site so that we can see checkin activity for that location. Thanks for the thorough writeup!

  2. says

    I'm so far from sold on geo that I really don't know why I'm even asking. What's the deal? Why? What can I read to find out why I'm the only person not jumping on?

  3. says

    You might have just inspired a blog post w/ your question, so thanks for that. ha. I think Geo is cool for a couple of reasons, I will give you 2 of my top reasons now and save the rest for a full post later. haha.

    1) user base loyalty, the people who use it are loyal. I once knew 2 guys who spent 2 hours cruising around a college campus in NW Arkansas to check in and pick up a trip badge (okay, I was one of them).

    2) business promotion, there are several ways that businesses can leverage these platforms to promote themselves and add to their bottom lines w/ promotions, mayorship discounts, etc.

  4. says

    Still not sold 😉

    1) What the hell is a trip badge? Now you sound like a Christian with all your foreign language speak! 😉

    2) I just can't see it taking off enough for businesses to have a significant enough ROI (money or time) to sustain usage. Maybe I'm just too far out of the loop to see the big cheeze….

  5. says

    LOL, Thou hast not Trip Badges?

    Here's some usages:


    IHCC / Holiday Inn uses Gowalla:
    Tea Company using it to put their product in peoples hands:


    The NBA Net's recently used a Gowalla promotion,
    Here's a great presentation slideshare on this:

  6. steventrotter says


    I don't know if we'll ever get you into our camp, but let me explain a few uses.

    Trip Badges – As you may or may not be aware, at the most basic level, both Foursquare & Gowalla are games. The object is to get more badges, stamps, and items than your friends. There are also limited edition stamps or stamps which are unlocked only by 50 or more people checking in at one location at one time. The Trip Badges are items in Gowalla which can only be earned by checking it at a series of locations which are grouped into a “trip”. Unless you complete the entire “trip”, you don't get the badge. Therefore, less people have them. It can be as simple as all of the city parks in your town, several historic building on the campus of a university or even all of the National Geographic offices in the US. There range from extremely easy to something you would only do on vacation.

    “Special Nearby” is a feature of Foursquare, I believe Gowalla calls them “promotions”, in which you can earn free products and services from restaurants if you are the mayor of the location. For example, the bar/deli down the street from me has a special for the current mayor that you get a free beer with any purchase as long as you are the mayor. Other examples would be the Starbucks promotion, which is nationwide, in which current mayor receive “$1 off any however-you-want-it Frappuccino beverage”. Everyone can see these offers, but only mayors (person who has checked in the most times in 30 days) can use the offer (they get a golden crown on the on-screen certificate). So, you get mayors to come in for a $1 off and you get their friends coming in to check-in and dethrone the current mayor. Some of the competitions for locations are fierce. For example, there are three people here in Jonesboro who constantly battle over the mayorship of Walmart.

    Even better for businesses, are “Tips”. As you go around town checking in, if you get near a geo-location (100 yards or so) that has been assigned a tip, you will receive a popup on your screen that say “USER HERE says, while your near Sonic, drop in for free banana splits after 9pm!”. Anyone can plant these anywhere. So, loyal customers can let all of their friends know that the “Gooey Goober Burger is the best!” (which might get you in the mood to eat there if you're hungry) OR the business owners can plant tips themselves with special deals, etc.

    Those are just a few of the things you can do. There are constant features added. We have a competition at our local coworking space to be the first to check in 100 times. We have activated a promotion within Foursquare that gives every person with 100 check-ins to the office a free t-shirt.

    You can also use these services API's outside of the game. For instance, to allow club members to check into meetings. You can then get a feed of this data and display it on your website, mobile application, etc.

    And remember, all of this has happened in the span of 1 year. Foursquare launched in March of 2009 at SxSW. They now have integration with Twitter and Facebook pending and all of the major networks have been seen using Foursquare/Gowalla for social marketing campaigns.

    If you're not sold after that, well, I don't know what to say. You didn't happen to be a a Twitter nay-sayer as well? ;P LOL

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