Foursquare has been around since 2009 but I started to use it in 2011. In fact it was not until I read about it in “the Thank You Economy” written by Gary Vaynerchuck. Gary mentions Foursquare a few times as a great tool to create buzz about businesses, particularly retails and entertainment so I though I’ll give it a go. I created a personal account, installed the app on my Android smart phone and started to use is regularly by checking in most places I went to.
I also created a business account for Salus Wellness Clinics, a business I founded in 2010, and run a number of campaigns to encourage people checking in when they visit our premises.
According to Wikipedia:
“Foursquare is a location-based social networking website for mobile devices, such as smartphones. Users “check in” at venues using a mobile website, text messaging or a device-specific application by selecting from a list of venues the application locates nearby. Location is based on GPS hardware in the mobile device or network location provided by the application. Each check-in awards the user points and sometimes “badges”.”
In my simple view of things I see 6 main reasons for businesses and users to use Foursquare:
- Businesses can encourage people to check in and become mayor offering discounts and freebies
- Users can receive incentives to go to a place and check in, letting their friends know that they are doing that
- Businesses have access to a new channel to promote products, services and special offers, being able to measure their effectiveness
- Users can find out new places or special offers thanks to their friends check ins and tips
- Business can hope to capture undecided audience about a place to go (bars and restaurants)
- Users can find in real time where friends are checked in and follow them
I think that Foursquare is altogether a good idea and it could deliver great advantages to both businesses and consumers. In my specific experience some businesses in Cambridge have somehow realized that Foursquare exists but failed to make proper use of it and add the necessary incentives to encourage people to keep using it. Many of them are actually unaware of Foursquare and its existence and how to use it. That probably the main reason why not many users embraced the platform and therefore the necessary critical mass was never reached.
When I started to use Foursquare I immediately found quite a few people that already were on this social network and they were using it. Within a year the number of people using it, within my network or friends and acquaintances, has not grown significantly so the overall experience has not improved that much. In my view it failed to go viral as other social networks have done.
Personally I appreciated all the badges and various recognitions I got when I initially checked in several times in the same place; once I realized to be the mayor of the same coffee shop for 8 weeks when I went there once in a while it was obvious that not many people were actively making use of this social network. Also when I turned up in a very busy bar one evening and as soon as I checked in I realised there was one other person checked in there; it was clear that for hundreds of other people could not care less about the whole thing.
Foursquare is a good idea based on good principles; however the overall concepts can be easily copied by another large social network with plenty of users and consolidated infrastructure; Facebook and Google already did that. For all of the above reasons I finally decided to give up on Foursquare, at least for now…