Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Thinking about Foursquare - Random Observations

Most of you have probably heard of Foursquare by now, especially since they've recently landed another US$50 million in financing.  Basically, it's a location-based social networking game with (potentially) major overtones for business.  Each user can follow their friends' travels, offer (and read) tips on different venues, and earn "mayorships" through frequent "checkins" at the same location(s). Some businesses offer discounts/special via Foursquare checkins/mayorships.

I've been working with Foursquare (aka 4sq) for just over 6 months now, and I thought I'd offer a few thoughts.  While I am a Foursquare Superuser Level 1 (SU1, which means I can do some very basic housekeeping chores in the Foursquare database), I have no business interest in the company; I'm just a moderately experienced end-user with 17 badges and (as of today) 18 mayorships.  Having said all of that, and in no particular order:

  • One personal note...if one has long-distance acquaintances, such as the once-or-twice-per-year conference friends, Foursquare is an interesting way to "keep in touch."
  • In my travels, Foursquare hasn't really "grown users" in the smaller cities (say, population 250,000 and under).  The main exception to this observation is college and university campuses; they seem to have both more venues defined and far more checkins than does the "rest of the city."
  • 4sq's badge system is cute, but the integration with the business world could be better.  Most of the sponsored badges (e.g. History Channel, the Gap, et cetera) only seem attainable in major cities.
  • As a business traveler, I find the tips offered by other users rather useful, especially those offered for restaurants.
  • I've only seen a few advertised-on-site 4sq tie-ins.  One sports bar in Tampa had a "check in here" decal on their door, which offered a 10% discount on the tab with one's first checkin.  Foursqure will need to encourage more engagement of this sort; it's one thing to get a deal with a chain (e.g. Arby's), but it's the smaller businesses that will bring new users into the 4sq fold.
  • If you think about joining 4sq, consider the privacy concerns.  Just as you do (or I hope you do) with any social network, only accept invitiations from those you know and/or can verify.  I would definitely have the "privacy talk" with my kids before allowing them to use 4sq.
  • I've only used the Blackberry client, but my #1 complaint is a simple one - it simply doesn't seem to work well with my device's GPS.  I'll be standing at the front door of a venue, but my client will insist that I'm 4500 feet away.  One would think that, between cell tower triangulation and GPS, it would perform much more accurately.
  • As an SU1, I handle address change requests; I'm amazed by the number of people who insist upon changing "KY" to "Ky", or "W First St." to "West First Street", and vice versa.
  • There are some...interesting venues created by users.  Folks check in at Interstate rest stops, I-75 traffic jams, and the like.
  • Thinking about smaller cities and small businesses, 4sq should work through local Chambers of Commerce to reach those folks en masse.  I was explaining 4sq to a local jewlery shop (while my daughters were shopping), and the owner was really excited to learn about it; she'd overheard customers talking about Foursquare, but had no idea what it really meant (or could mean).
  • I'd like to see a "most popular venues in this city" facility; that would certainly help me find interesting places to visit while traveling.

Share your 4sq thoughts/experiences in the comments, and--if we know each other--find me on Foursquare as wesmorgan1...

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