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U Houston Bags Prize in Location-Aware Contest

The University of Houston flexed its social networking muscles to win a $10,000 donation to its scholarship fund. The Texas institution participated in a competition put on by Gowalla, a company that has a location-based social networking service. Subscribers to the free service can "check in" to "spots" in their local vicinity through a mobile app or mobile Web site, then share those locations with others.

For its latest contest, which started in October, Gowalla enlisted campus communities in all of the schools that are members of the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision. Each school had five locations designated--including the university's "primary" location, its stadium, and three other spots--at which people could check in daily and win a point for their school. By the end of the college football season U Houston with a score of 6,065 points had bested second place finisher the University of Texas at Austin, which had 5,233 points.

The money was donated to the university's Cougar Community TierOne Endowment, which funds undergraduate research and study abroad.

The university tapped its social media channels, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, to promote participation. "Our social media presence grew tremendously in 2010, and we're excited to build on that success in 2011," said Jessica Brand, social media coordinator for U Houston. "Winning the Gowalla Check-in Challenge is not only a great way to kick off the year, but helps strengthen the bond between students and the campus community."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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