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Location-based app Gowalla partners with Disney

Users of Gowalla, the mobile location-based service, will be able to earn virtual stamps by "checking in" at Disney theme parks.
Users of Gowalla, the mobile location-based service, will be able to earn virtual stamps by "checking in" at Disney theme parks.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Gowalla, a location-based service, lets users "check in" at hot spots, share experiences
  • Disney Parks is taking its first foray into location services by teaming with Gowalla
  • Gowalla has about 500,000 users
  • Partnership is the largest, most comprehensive brand launch on location-based service
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(CNN) -- When Josh Williams created Gowalla, the location-based mobile service that allows users to "check in" at hot spots and share experiences from the road, he was inspired by the Disney brand and dreamed of one day partnering with the company.

Two years later, Disney Parks is taking its first foray into location services by teaming up with Gowalla to provide visitors a new way to explore Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

"When we founded Gowalla two years ago we saw Disney as inspiration for us both in terms of design and quality associated with the brand," said Williams, CEO and co-founder of Gowalla, in an e-mail to CNN. "To connect friends and family across Disney Parks through Gowalla is simply magical."

Visitors to the theme parks will be able to engage with family and friends through custom Gowalla pages, "Passport Stamps" and other tools that help them track their trips in virtual scrapbooks.

Gowalla users can earn virtual stamps at Space Mountain, the Haunted Mansion, the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and other attractions. By Christmas, more than 200 featured Disney theme park attractions will be part of the initiative.

A partnership such as this one is a rare move for Disney and the first time a major theme park has offered a complete experience on a location-based service. It's also the largest, most comprehensive brand launch on a location-based service ever.

"With Gowalla, we're giving our fans something unique to collect and a new way to share their Disney memories -- as they happen," said Leslie Ferraro, executive vice president of global marketing for Disney Destinations. "Custom Disney Passport pages will also offer value by allowing guests to view park happenings, to see maps with check-in streams and other special items."

For Gowalla, which has about 500,000 users compared with rival Foursquare's 4 million users, a partnership with Disney could be a game changer.

"Everyone is now going to have their iPhone out at Disney, and when they come back home from vacation a large percentage of them will convert into permanent users," said Gregory Ferenstein, an educator who writes about social media for tech blog Mashable.

Disney also gets the benefit of visitors broadcasting their experiences at the theme parks to friends on Gowalla, along with Twitter and Facebook.

Brian Solis, a leading social media expert and author, calls real world events that involve tweets, Facebook updates and check-ins "social consumerism."

"The Disney and Gowalla partnership represents a wonderful way to unite social activity online and in the real world," Solis said.

"It also opens the doors to new possibilities to engage social media to share experiences every meaningful and shareable step of the way. We are at the beginning of a new world where we appeal to the traditional consumer and also the social consumer."

[TECH: NEWSPULSE]

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