Social Media Gives To Charity Every Time You Shop For The Holidays

Now your holiday shopping will not only bring a smile to the faces of those on your shopping list, it will also be used to donate to worthy causes. This year many of us became acquainted with location-based social networks that add a layer of social media to our mobile devices. This holiday season, four of the LBS applications that allows users to broadcast their location to their followers will also trigger merchants and venues to donate to charities. It's a win-win for all!

Without users donating directly to a charity, every time a user check-ins to a store, hotel or restaurant with Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt and Facebook Places that establishment will donate a dollar amount to designated causes.

For example, a NY Times report noted that the Hard Rock Cafe in the US is donating one dollar to 'WhyHunger' every time someone checks in to one of their restaurants using Facebook Places. Helping to fight global poverty and hunger, donations of this type will continue until the end of December or until Hard Rock International reaches their goal of $100,000.

CauseWorld is the charitable model that all four of these LBS's are emulating. Available on iPhones and Android smartphones, CauseWorld is a mobile application that was one of the first to combine shopping and donating. By awarding users "karma" points for checking into venues, users can then donate those karmas for specific actions to improve the world. Examples of this charitable model include donating to classrooms in need, planting a tree, providing a meal for the hungry or helping an injured animal.

According to Austin Considine in his NY Times report, he notes that because these applications are open and accessible to users and businesses, partnerships evolve freely. "Foursquare and Facebook Places, for example, do not arrange relationships between businesses and charities. Business owners simply join the network and promote special deals at will, some of them charitable."

Those that shop at the Gap were pleasantly surprised that their purchases were contributing to worthy causes. The clothier company is donating one dollar for every check-in to CampInteractive, a charity that helps poor children explore nature and technology. And Gap is taking it one step further by also giving buyers 30 percent off purchases with each check-in up and through December 25.

As these types of promotions and campaigns are cutting into profit margins, it's uplifting to see this "feel-good" twist added to holidays that are often criticized for becoming too commercial. With location-based social networks becoming the catalyst for charitable giving - it makes both the merchant and the consumer reassess the true meaning of the holiday season.