Is this Foursquare or Bore-square?

I think I “get” Foursquare.  I really do.

I understand there could be significant business benefits and opportunities to build customer loyalty.

But I really wonder if Foursquare can reach critical mass to be a widespread consumer social media platform. To find out, I conducted  …

The World’s Greatest Foursquare Experiment.

In fact, it might be the world’s only Foursquare experiment : )

The much-hyped Foursquare is similar to Twitter in that you provide short status reports based on your geographic location.  As you visit more businesses and “check-in,” you can earn virtual “badges” and become “mayor” of a location.  You can also find friends, see reviews, ads, and coupons from nearby businesses.

I decided to give it a rigorous test by trying it in a village (Abingdon, VA) a small city (Knoxville, TN) and a metroplex (New York City) over a period of six weeks. I’ll provide my bias upfront: I’m concerned that people are becoming de-sensitized to the information they are feeding into “the machine” and should draw the line at reporting personal location and behavior patterns.  However, I’m starting to get Foursquare questions from my students and realized I needed to give it a fair shot. So I did…

Early buzz

The interface was easy to figure out.  Pulling out my smart phone became habitual as I was eager to earn badges and see what the hype was about.

The first problem was that it became annoying to me, and whoever I was with, when I fumbled around connecting to Foursquare at each location. The app doesn’t always know precisely where you are. In a “medium” town like Knoxville, I usually received a list of 10 nearby businesses and could easily select my location. However in the small village, about half of the businesses did not exist on the grid so I had to manually enter my spot. In NYC I had just the opposite problem. Can you imagine the number of suggested spots I had to scroll through while standing on a corner of Park Ave.?

Umm… Who the hell are you?

When I joined Foursquare, I started getting friend requests from dozens of random people including the city of Reading, PA.  Not knowing any better, I accepted them. Now, if I report where I am, I’m letting a lot of complete strangers know my whereabouts. In hindsight, I was not too bright with this move.

Call me Mr. Mayor

One part of the experiment was becoming a mayor. I wanted to see what happened when you were crowned king of a location.  This happened fairly quickly when I was the first Foursquare visitor to a local barbecue joint. “How sad. This location has no mayor” it reported.  So the next day I went back and became the mayor. Great for the restaurant but what did I get out of it? An electronic award. Hmmm.

Gaming the system

Did you know if you walk down the street you can check-in at every location you pass?

True value

I had heard some cool stories about people getting instant coupons upon entering a location. This never happened to me.

I did get a few on-the-spot restaurant menu recommendations but they were from strangers so it didn’t mean too much.

Finally near the end of the month I actually saw that a Foursquare friend (and somebody I knew!) was in the same location as me. That was pretty cool but since I was at a family celebration, I really didn’t want to interact and hoped they wouldn’t come by.

I think the biggest benefit of this service could be finding friends at a conference in a big city. I saw the app used this way extensively at SXSW and it makes sense.

The balance of cost versus reward

During the experiment, I had tweeted out some of my experiences and concerns, especially about privacy. One friend suggested that I simply turn-off the online reporting function … meaning I wouldn’t connect with friends, wouldn’t be alerted to deals, but still could earn badges. Huh?

Am I really doing this to earn electronic badges? Is that enough reward for me to continue using this application? No, I don’t think so.

While Foursquare could be a potential goldmine for businesses, it holds very little tangible value to consumers right now … at least in my experience. But that will undoubtedly change. In fact it HAS to change.   For this to really take off beyond the geek circles, it has to offer much more value to consumers than the silliness being delivered now.

I’ll continue to use this selectively so I can stay on top of continued innovations and benefits but I don’t see it becoming part of my regular social media diet.

And by the way …

I still have my concern.  Why are we helping the crooks do their jobs by providing our location and teaching them our buying behaviors?

I guess people will do anything for a coupon?

{grow} community alert: Gregg Morris did a great job expanding on these Foursquare ideas in his blog post

All posts

  • Carrie Bond

    I signed up today. Nobody I know on foursquare lives in San Antonio, so I’m don’t think I’ll get much out of it. But figured I needed to give it a look see before I continue to poo poo it.

  • I like Foursquare more than farmville…#justsayin’

  • Jen

    I, too, used Foursquare habitually when I first signed up. I made sure my business was one of those that offered a “coupon” to users, too. It’s been almost 3 months since the last time I used it. It became more of a burden to remember to checkin in all the time than anything else (and to drive by places that were forgotten earlier in the day to post-check-in). And, even though my business has a mayor, no one has ever asked to redeem the coupon.

  • Wow thanks for the blog post on foursquare. I don’t use it. My brother does. He checks in everywhere he goes. To be frank I still don’t get the idea behind all of this. I feel its more dangerous as people know your whereabouts.

    Great post.

    Cheers
    Aaron

  • First, I share your concern about disclosing enough personal info to allow perps to figure out behavior patterns. A friend was recently assaulted by a stalker who followed her old school. He knew when she went to the gym, walked her dog, and came home in the dark. He hid in the shrubs and snuck in the garage as it closed. It just seems location-based services makes stalking easier. I do NOT accept friend requests from strangers.

    NOBODY is using it!! Out of curiosity, I tapped over to Foursquare to see how many people checked in during the Kentucky Derby. Out of 100,000 people, only 30 bothered to check in. I wonder how many were employees. As I type, the NBA finals are on. Check it out for yourself.

  • Mark

    Thanks for the great comments and passing along your experiences. I know a couple people who are addicted to it so I can’t dismiss the fact that it appeals to some … even with the very limited benefits it now offers. It’s lost on me, however.

    I also think they will eventually make it work, as dumb as it might be at the moment, because in the end it’s good for business.

  • Alys Drake

    Great post. I’ve been playing around with Foursquare here in Memphis and find I am the mayor of most of the venues I create because no one else is checking in.

    But I do know quite a few people locally who are using it and I am beginning to get some nice tips from people I can trust.

    I’m still trying figure out the benefit. Being the mayor of my local Kroger doesn’t do much for me.

    ~Alys

  • Mark it is certainly technology in search of a reason. The dangers notwithstanding it could have some use somewhere somehow, but for the life of me???

    It probably comes down to companies wanting to control this conversation by coupons or the like.

    That in itself is not social.

    As for using something like this for folks I know at conferences? I use a device called a phone and call folks prior to the conference and arrange a meeting. I know, call me wacky! But ya know??? It works.

  • Mark

    Alys — You’re the mayor of Kroger?? Wow. That’s impressive. Much better than Buddy’s BBQ.

    @Mose — Calling somebody? Oh that is just so December. : )

  • There is much frustration for me to read about ‘security’ using geotagging services like foursquare. I believe it stems from the responsibility the user ‘sheds’ when they enter the social sites and blindly depend on them to provide a safe haven. It’s social, not private. If the user has not taken the time to learn the sites rules of engagement then they can not be safe on any site. Forgive me if I am coming off stark but I would focus more and more on the evolving behavior that comes from being a foursquare user with multiple mayorships. In my town, we are now beginning to organize foursquare events to not only spread awareness of the venues services but also the potential for more companies to see the cultivation of loyal customers who pride themselves on checking in and holding the ‘mayor’ spot. I have been ousted many times and the urge to immediately get back as fast as possible to tally my next check-in to regain my title was strong. And this comes from a person you might consider less manipulated by this type of situation, yet I couldn’t resist! 🙂 Of course there are issues and the check-in function is a bit like a beta prototype. It’s fun, free and engaging….and that’s were foursquare and businesses win.

  • It’s definitely one of these “man, you have so much potential if only you’d show businesses why” apps. It’s getting there for sure – the “Special Nearby” tab at the top of your display is one example, with Mayors of Starbucks getting a buck off certain coffees.

    I see Foursquare more as a cross-marketing opportunity. Say you’re at a movie theatre, watching the latest superhero movie. You check in, and because the comic book store down the road is connected with the cinema, they know you’ve checked into watch Generic Man 6.

    When the movie ends, you get pinged – “Enjoy the movie? For the next 2 hours, buy the official graphic novel and save 20%, or get a free action figure.”

    Get businesses working together to offer relevant offers and I think something like Foursquare could become a huge business tool.

  • I’ve trialed it too and come to the decision that it’s not really for me. I use it to check restaurant tips, etc, but checking in is a hassle.

    Joseph Jaffe has a great little vlog about the new Starbucks Foursquare campaign. He talks about how he was the mayor but no one at 3 Starbucks knew about the 1 USD off deal. Duh!

    Maybe the service will mature as Danny suggests, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it stalls or is supplanted by something else. The teens I talk to haven’t even heard of it!

  • Mark,

    I have not signed up for Foursquare because of the privacy issues. As a woman and a mom, it just does not make sense to me to post my whereabouts to people I don’t know.

    Plus, it makes it very easy for people to “connect the dots.” On Sundays she’s here, on Mondays at 5:00 she’s here . . . you get the picture.

    Plus, do people really want to know where we all are at all hours of the day? I sure don’t care. 😮

  • I see Foursquare as mindless entertainment. It takes all of a couple seconds to check-in on my Droid and I enjoy seeing who’s nearby that I may know. The rest of the marketing/branding/business stuff is useless at the moment but may morph into something someday. I recall a very similar conversation about 4 years ago when a colleague told me not to waste my time with thefacebook.com since it was just a hook-up site for college kids.

  • Mark

    @Lucas — I am so positively delighted you took the time to offer a dissenting view. I would have been very disappointed if your passionate love of the app wasn’t represented on this discussion, so thanks for carrying the banner!

    The only point of dissension I will offer is that my overwhelming concern on the privacy issue is for the young, the elderly and the vulnerable. I agree with you that knowledgeable adults should take the time to think about what they’re doing.

    Again, thank you so very much for taking the time and having the guts to write a thoughtful response.

  • Another interesting post! We’re experimenting with FourSquare here some at the office just to see what the opportunities are and to be aware of it. The privacy concerns are an issue that needs to be thought through. I figure it’s not much of a mystery that I go to the office and lunch most days. 😉 I keep having to remind myself that I had a lot of the same thoughts the first time I explored Twitter and that is turning out well so far. Geo-tagging is still in the early stages but I can sometimes glance around the next corner and see where it might lead. Interesting times we live in.

  • Mark

    @Danny — Always nice when one of my blogging hereos takes the stage! I agree the potential is vast.

    @Jon — It’s funny how Foursquare has dominated social web discussions but is still obscure. I’ve had the same observation.

  • Mark

    @Dianna — I share your concern precisely. Thankfully my own kids have had no interest in using it.

    @Chris — Point well taken! I realize Foursquare might not be for me but I still need to regard it as a viable marketing weapon. Heck, Justin Bieber isn’t for me either : )

    @Glenn — Geo-tagging is white hot and you are doing the right thing from an agency standpoint to keep an open mind about it. Thanks for commenting!

  • Josh

    Hello Mark,

    I’ve only been using foursquare for a short time (a few weeks) granted they weren’t typical weeks as I was on vacation for a good part of it, but found several instances where it had value.

    I was visiting my sister and we were supposed to meet her friends someplace and forgot the address at home, she was trying to find the place on Google maps when she got a notification from foursquare that her friend just checked in, we then had the address.

    Later that week we had time to kill and nothing to do so we pulled out our phones to try and rack up the most points by checking in to all the places around us (gaming the system as you mentioned) and one place we checked in had a notice they were giving out free single scoops of gelato, we got the free scoops and each bought an additional cone thats good for business and us.

    One place I stopped to eat gave me superb service, since I wasn’t from around there I couldn’t exactly tell my friends to check it out, but I noticed it gets a lot of foursquare check ins so I made a note to ask for my server by name, I’m not sure if he’ll get any extra tips because of it but it only took a few seconds and made me feel good to recommend him.

    Another place we ate at we checked in and instantly heard people cheering from the backroom “we got another check in!” they brought us a free appetizer and I asked about it, and the restaurant was part of a local chain and they were holding a competition between the branches to see who could get the most checkins, it made for a fun atmosphere in the restaurant, and encouraged customers to engage in the competition to get there friends to come I know we ate there twice while in the area to boost up their checkins.

    As for security I only accept requests from people I know personally and I only share my checkins with my friends on foursquare.

    From the comments above it sounds like my experience has been unusual but I’ve had fun using it.

    Thanks,

    Josh

  • Anonymous

    LBS – Loser Based Services

    That is where Foursquare currently resides in the world of social platforms.

    There is no doubt in my mind however that real, high value LBS (Location Based Services) will emerge in the next 6-18 months… probably not under the Foursquare flag however.

  • Nathan Egan

    That was me on the previous post – sorry I forgot to fill out my info before I hit post

  • I read this post on my phone and couldn’t wait to get to my desk keyboard to comment. But I did. As a B2B marketing guy, it’s been my experience that there are often overlooked, or the very least underutilized, point-of-sale environments in B2B. Although a majority of interaction with customers and clients is most often via phone or online, many are still place-based interactions. Distributor locations, warehouses, wholesale auctions, etc are examples. Even the C-suite suits will frequent the occassional trade show. And it’s not just external audiences. Say you want to incentivize your field sales and reward their site visits to retail clients on a time-sensitive promotion. I am very intriqued by proximity messaging for B2B and somehow I’m going to find a way to experiment with FourSquare soon on a project. In the meantime, along with others at our agency, I’m fooling around with it myself and finding out things. FaceBook and Foursquare don’t mix any better than those annoying Farmville and Mafia games. At least with my FB friends.

    FourSquare has potential to take totally unexpected turns just as twitter has evolved from it’s original simplistic purpose by how users decide to use it.

    One glance at the marketing professionals and deep thinkers commenting on this article indicates it’s at least on our minds.

    Thanks again for another thought provoking post Mark!

  • Mark

    @Josh — Fantastic. Thanks for the fresh perspective. I really value the diversity of thought here.

    @Nathan — Thanks for taking the time to comment. Certainly the location option will be revolutionary.

    @Billy — Absolutely fascinating commentary. I look forward to hearing more about your B2B insights and applications. As usual, you’re on the cutting edge Billy!

  • I’ve only just started playing around with Foursquare in the last couple of weeks, and I decided to give Gowalla a whirl as well, for comparison’s sake. I plan to write a blog post about pros and cons of both, but I think I like Gowalla better because I feel it has more value to offer in other ways than the coupons – such as photo sharing, maps, the ability to create “trips” (which lends itself to a cool scavenger hunt or “crawl” sort of promotion). It doesn’t have the ability for businesses to add coupons, but there’s still loads of potential there.

    Mark, you mentioned that services like Foursquare could be put to good use at conferences, and I agree – although I think Gowalla is a teensy bit ahead of the game there with the ability to add exhibitions and conferences. Both services, though, have some work to do to make them even more appealing to event attendees.

  • Brad Lovett

    I haven’t really given Foursquare a good trial (mainly because my phone is still “dumb”) but I’m not sure I get it. There are a couple of restaurants in Ohio that have a discount or free meal for “mayors”. I can see the privacy issues as well. At least for now, if I want to give a business or event a “shout-out” on Twitter, I do, but I don’t need to tell the world where I am every instant of the day. Like the cartoon, by the way.

  • FourSquares looks like a lot of fun, but I have to agree with Dianna on the personal safety aspect. However, in a B2B setting, as Billy points out, it can be a great tool for motivating the sales force as well as other location-based processes.

    Any B2B application that involves face-to-face interaction could be enhanced with geolocation technology. B2B marketers could optimize their trade show presence with incentives. Frequent visitors could become the mayor of Booth #123.

    From a customer service standpoint, knowing the location of a technician when another call comes in could allow companies to optimize the technician’s time and keep customers happy.

    I think the technology needs to be embedded into existing apps, so it’s not dependent on building yet another social network and adding members. So in the trade show example, the trade show company could offer geolocation as a service to exhibitors and offer sponsorship for the service.

    There are a lot of useful B2B possibilities for geolocation technology. FourSquares is likely to be a predecessor to applications that we haven’t even imagined yet.

    Intriguing post, Mark. Love the graphic! We’re definintely not in Kansas anymore!

  • Mark

    @Kari — Thanks for bringing Gowalla into the discussion. Very appropriate. Look forward to that blog post!

    @Brad — yeah, The look on the Tinman’s face just spoke to me. : )

    @Joan — Terrific ideas. You’ve got my wheels turning. Welcome back BTW. Missed you around here.

  • Great post and wonderful discussion. I agree with @Danny here.

    I think Foursquare has a lot of potential. In theory, it makes a lot of sense. I signed up when it opened up nationwide because I understood the inherent value it could offer. However, like many have mentioned, my participation has since waned. It is socially awkward to fiddle with your phone to check in somewhere – this is why I tend to only check in if I’m by myself, waiting in line or have some other opportunity to do it.

    I think the privacy issue is what you make of it. I don’t accept requests from people I don’t know (or have an established online relationship with). I also don’t post to Twitter. I know that some benefits may be lost this way, but A) I find that constant check-in notices from others are incredibly annoying and B) I don’t want the whole world to know where I am.

    I think the more businesses start offering coupons, rewards for being mayor or using the “nearby” feature, it would have a lot more benefit. I think this would be especially useful when out of town. @Josh’s testimonial is a great example of how the service could be used well.

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  • Mark

    @Laura — Well said. I feel better now that I know your interest has waned. You’re hipper and smarter than me so I feel somewhat more confident in my testimony. ; )

  • “I think the biggest benefit of this service could be finding friends at a conference in a big city.” Too bad for them it’s not 1999 as that would make for a 9 figure valuation.

  • Kathy Snavely

    I agree with the folks on the security issues; I believe I have an obligation to my family to be judicious with my whereabouts. As a “public figure,” I am already exposed to more than enough risk. This is exactly why we have local businesses springing up to babysit houses during funerals and public events. This city girl ain’t signin’ up – I’m transparent enough, thank you.

  • This post made me realize I’m not the only person unexcited about Foursquare. I have quite a few friends who think it’s super fun, and I just don’t see it. I actually wrote a blog post “Why Foursquare Annoys Me” (your title is WAY better, btw!) and was met with criticism…

    http://bit.ly/aZ1bAE

    Glad you have my back, Mark!

  • So I tweeted something to the effect of “thanks for explaining 4square so I don’t have to use it” and then realized I should probably explain myself. Like Dianna, I am more concerned about my personal safety in this case than I am about understanding this potential marketing tool. Still, the fact that it has uses other than collecting badges (such as coupons or reading reviews) does interest me…so I’ll keep my mind open. Thanks for doing this, Mark!

  • Mark W Schaefer

    Thanks for your comments. Enjoyed your post, Lauren!

  • Mark, you always seem to be able to cut through to the “root” point:
    I’m concerned that people are becoming de-sensitized to the information they are feeding into “the machine” and should draw the line at reporting personal location and behavior patterns.
    Whether it’s Foursquare or something else, people need to be wary of what they feed this “machine”. On the surface, the all look innocent enough but the power of their combined intelligence is troublesome to me primarily because the creators of these products are only looking at their upside, not our downside…..

  • Mark

    @Steve. That is a really powerful way of describing the issue. AT&T experienced a major hack this week. Google has been fending off pirates to the point they needed to bring in the CIA. What makes anybody think that at some point Facebook and Foursquare’s information won’t be in some hacker’s computer?

  • Josh

    @Steve I think thats a very good, discussion to start. In my opinion sites like Foursquare often get demonized because they are obvious areas where people give away too much information. But you don’t hear too many privacy concerns with Google Latitude (comparatively) which last I heard has roughly 3 times the users as foursquare, and they recently released an API which allows developers to use historical data (even if you opt not to use those programs you know Google has it stored). What about my ISP? There’s not much conversation about privacy issues there but they literally have everything you do online. My question is, Where do you draw the line, I’m ok handing over all my online activity to my ISP because I need Internet Access, I’m ok handing my credit card to a complete stranger at a restaurant, because it’s easier then carrying cash. Is this the first generation that hands over too much information publicly or are we just now realizing it?

  • WONDERFUL discussion. I’m on the recent Foursquare new user list – trying to figure out the hype to determine whether or not I want to be actively involved in this additional form of personal information sharing. As is the case with any form of social media – using personal discretion is always a good rule of thumb.

    I don’t personally feel that checking in at a restaurant or a local business in any way violates my personal space, nor does it leave a trail for perps (thanks! @MikeCampbellCFO).

    However, my issue with Foursquare isn’t a privacy issue as much as it’s out of my way to use it. I have no incentive to “check in” without obvious benefits.

    I was happy to hear that Yelp just added geo-tagging to their app, and their own form of badges – they’re going autocratic with royalty terms instead of the more democratic options offered on Foursquare.

    Since I actively use Yelp to help me locate businesses, I’m technically already checking in to the site – so there is no additional step required for me to use the service.

    It makes sense to me that in the next generation of updates – the benefit will come from taking greater advantage of where the users already exist – rather than expecting that if you build it they will come. And always having the option to use the geo-tagging or not.

    In fact, Mark, I think you should have a geo-tag option on your comment section. That way everyone would know I’m sitting in a training room at Reynolds American in Winston Salem, NC, where we just finished our monthly training session!

  • Mark

    @Josh. For me, what you’re asking is THE question for the future of social media. I’ve written a couple of different posts on this topic, but this is probably the one you would enjoy the most: http://businessesgrow.com/2009/12/09/falling-in-love-with-skynet/

  • Mark

    Arminda – LOL! Thanks for the comments and ideas and glad you are accessing {grow} from your work location!

  • I couldn’t agree more. The amount of time I’ve spent manually plugging in venues (since I live in the burbs where nobody uses it), waiting to get past past the crying girl’s face when Foursquare is hung up (which is WAY too frequently), and downloading an “update” to the app, only to render the whole thing useless because of a bug in that particular “fix”…well, if I had any pride I’d be too embarrassed to admit I’ve wasted this much time on Foursquare! But I confess to spending a bunch of time using Foursquare only to have the same questions you have: e.g. what’s in it for the user, as opposed to businesses? So far I’m the mayor of over 10 places (helps when you live in the burbs…although participation seems to be creeping up because I’ve recently been ousted at a few places) and have gotten this many perks or things free: zero.

    I’ve seen a few “nearby specials” and am patiently waiting for Dunkin Donuts to start giving something to mayors like Starbucks is doing (I’m the mayor of 2 DDs). But so far nothing but effort on my part…and a considerable amount of effort at that.

    The thing that occurs to me recently is that it’s one thing to expect users to play ONE of these geolocation games. But now everyone is rushing in with more and more geolocation games–Yelp adding checkins, WeReward rewarding people with money for checkins or actions, Pepsi funding some new one, etc, etc. Just how much time to investors/businesses/developers think we’re going to spend checking in with 20 different apps every time we go out? It’s already taking away from your “in person” social time when you’re out and have to pause to check in before you can go into the movie theater–I think my husband would leave me on the street if I then proceeded to check-in 4 more times on various apps.

    I think that venture capitalists should be aware of the large social price these apps demand of the users and know that the amount of time anyone has to devote to checkin games is VERY limited…so enough with more plans for even more geolocation apps. Foursquare may or may not end up being “the next big thing” but that doesn’t mean users want to repeat those actions 20 more times with a copycat app.

  • Josh

    @Maggie I agree it seems like my Facebook feed is filled with check ins from different apps every day. Its interesting to ask my friends why the use the ones they do, they all seem pretty loyal to their app of choice.

    Foursquare seems to get a lot of attention from marketers but I wonder if geo location apps will end up with one or two dominant players or if it will segment even further to ultra niche apps. I could see a foursquare type game where people can only check in at concerts call it superfan and they could get to be the #1 fan of their favorite bands etc.

    It seems like the possibilities for differentiation are limitless. Has anyone noticed a trend on way or the other?

  • Mark

    @Maggie — Fantastic insights. I ran into another problem yesterday that I’ll contribute to the conversation. Last night I manually added a location and discovered that I misspelled it. So I added it again correctly. Now there are two identical locations in the system.

    @Josh — As far as the perpetuation of competing systems, I think consolidation will naturally occur as it did for other platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

    Thanks for taking the time to provide such a great contribution today!

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  • I just read a compelling blog post by Robert Scoble and think everyone will get a lot out of his discussion, as well.

    http://scobleizer.com/2010/06/12/foursquares-yelp-problem-they-just-got-time-to-figure-it-all-out/

  • You have done it once more! Incredible article!

  • Mark

    @Arminda . Great find. I had missed that article. Well done, thank you!

  • So the privacy debate is one I’ve always taken issue with. Location-based services like foursquare and gowalla are intended to help users “go out and discover the world” (paraphrasing + combining the missions of the two services). There are two very simple ways to avoid any and all privacy concerns:

    1. NEVER check in at home – besides, the services are to be used when you GO OUT, not when you’re home. If you never check in at home, it doesn’t matter if users know that you’re somewhere, because they don’t know where you live.

    2. If that’s not enough for you, be sure to only accept friend requests from people you know in real life. I don’t particularly side with this, but if it makes you feel better, go for it.

    In my own personal opinion, if you’re using twitter and/or facebook already, people can tell from the context of your status updates that you’re either at home or not. If they want to break into your house and steal things, there are many simpler, easier ways to find out if someone’s home than to monitor their foursquare check-ins.

    —-
    As for mainstream adoption, foursquare/gowalla may very well never reach critical mass, but what they did was successfully test and prove the concept. Now, when companies like facebook/google push this concept to their massive (500 million+ users), it will take hold and it will serve as a real, viable market for businesses.

    Lastly, I’ll talk service utility for the consumer — why do people check in?

    Yes, sure some people are “coupon-crazy” and want to get discounted goods and some people are addicted to game mechanics (badges, mayorships, etc.) but let’s be honest, those are the “crazies”

    When these services really become useful is when your own network begins using them. Hypothetical example: it’s Thursday night and I just finished an after-work happy hour with some guys from work. I pull out my iPhone and see a push notification letting me know that one of my best friends checked in at a bar down the street. I text my friend and see who he’s there with and he happens to be with another of our friends from college. I walk down the street and meet up with them for dinner and a few drinks. That…is serendipity, and that’s why I use the service. The power lies in your network. Sure, as more people use these services more businesses with run promotions, offer discounts, etc. but, honestly, those need to be secondary to providing real intrinsic value to my life.

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  • Best. Line. Ever.
    “Finally I actually saw a Foursquare friend…somebody I knew…. but I really didn’t want to interact and hoped they wouldn’t come by.”
    LOL!
    Thanks Mark.

  • Mark

    Glad you were entertained : )

  • I’ve been using Foursquare for several months now. At first I didn’t get it. I checked in to several places and eventually became the mayor. However, the game got a little more exciting when other people took my mayor title and I felt the need to win it back – especially at the places I love the most.

    When you check in to a new venue, be sure to look at the Tips that users leave behind. They’ll tell you what dishes are the best, what not to order, best time to get there, etc.

  • eric moritz

    Some tips:
    1. Foursquare is private by default.
    2. Only friend people you would mind talking to in real life if you happened to run into them
    3. Hard Knox pizza in Knoxville gives you a free drink if you check in. This s the only 4sq deal I know about in Knoxville.

  • Mark

    @Nathan — Isn’t that funny how a little competition can drive use of an app? Very interesting.

    @Eric — Thanks for the useful tips! Sounds like there is plenty of room for more deals in Knoxville!

  • John W

    I used it for three months and stopped. Why? Because it is inconvenient to pause, reach into a pocket and tap away. It’s really inconvenient in Minnesota in January.

    But I’ll counter that Foursquare is really anti-social if you are with other people. I could expect eye-rolls from my friends when we strolled into a place and I ignore them for 1-2 minutes to check in. And then there was the ‘look’ from my wife. Using Foursquare is like drawing a curtain around yourself at a table of friends.

    So, I tossed all my mayorships and badges into the digital sea. I feel happier now. And so do my wife and kids.

  • Mark W. Schaefer

    @John — Yeah, I felt the samw awkwardness. Thanks for commenting!

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