Location Based Social Media – Might it be the Next Tool for Town-Gown Relations?

One of the greatest challenges for any university or college is getting students off campus to explore their local community. Students are often overwhelmed by the relocation from home to campus. Many are living away from their parents for the first time. Many of them have never lived in an urban environment. They face new academic and social pressures. Let’s just say that there is a lot to absorb. We find that most students are ready to independently explore the local community during their Junior or Senior years. Yet, in the Freshmen Orientation Programs, we spend an extensive amount of energy introducing students to our local community so that when they’re ready to take the initiative, they have a great experience.

Lehigh University students are not shy or reserved. They are passionate, hard working and generous young adults. But they are also quite independent. They cherish their autonomy. They like taking initiative – on their terms. Location based social media may be effective tools for students to explore the local community because it allows them to discover places on their own terms. They can share experiences with other students; they own their experiences.

Tomorrow, I will see the final presentation of the Pennsylvania School for Global Entrepreneurship (PSGE) ArtsLehigh team. This small band of highly intelligent and motivated teens have been working for five weeks on a project that uses location based social media to identify businesses and hot spots in South Bethlehem that they think will be of interest to Lehigh University students.  Since I’m aware of the many arts and cultural spots, I encouraged them to find what they thought would be relevant.

If one has been following trends on social media over the last three years, one would understand the capacity of these tools to help people connect.  I asked the PSGE students to take on this project because I needed fresh eyes to South Bethlehem and to Lehigh University. I’m excited to see what they discovered and their recommendations for moving forward.

If you are interested in reading the results I will provide a summary here on the ArtsLehigh blog at the end of this week. Until then, if you want to know more about location based social media, please read this short summary. If the summary still makes things fuzzy, consider this scenario:

A Lehigh University student needs to buy some toothpaste. The student remembers during their Freshmen Orientation tour, a convenience store on Campus Square but forgets where that is. They ask their roommate. The roommate points them down the hill. For some reason, the student gets disoriented.  Student has a smart phone. Student logs onto a location based social media app that finds “convenience store near me.” Student finds the store. Up pop three restaurants within a block on the “nearby list”, but not in clear view of the street. Student finds lots of businesses on the nearby list; a laundromat, an independent coffee shop with free Wi-Fi – and tips from another user about that spot being a really great place to study…. Voila, information on terms relevant to the student. No doubt, the student will get to that coffee shop and discover not only is it a great place to study – but that the coffee shop presents local live music at night. And now their next social evening has a plan. See where this is going?