Foursquare for squares?

So do you guys want to talk about Foursquare? I do. Now that all the concern about stalkers, house-robbers, etc has worn off, I have some comments. I have only a couple friends on Foursquare who actually use it regularly and I don’t hang out with them that much. So, I find myself, when I remember checking in when I’m out with my non-Foursquare friends (the large majority of the time) sort of hiding it. I’m embarrassed. Inevitably I’m asked “What are you doing? What’s Foursquare?” and I have to explain it to them. And they are confused and not really impressed. “What’s the point of that? It sounds dumb.” I can defend the silly thing, but not with much conviction.

Foursquare is an app you install on a smart phone that uses geotracking to allow you to “check-in” to whatever real location you are at and it lets your other foursquare friends know as well as keeping you informed of where your friends go. You can post “tips” in certain locations for others to read if they check into the same place. If you check into a location more than anyone else you can become the mayor of that place. You can also earn assorted badges for playing. For example, checking in 4 nights in a row can get you a “Bender” badge. It’s a little like location-based twitter with a bit of a game element.

What does any of this actually mean for brands and making the big bucks? I don’t know, not a whole lot to be honest. A few companies like Starbucks have had Foursquare build in coupons into the application. Starbucks offers the mayor of their specific location a dollar off their already over-priced fruity ice drinks I think at the moment. Some companies like Bravo, VH1, Zagat, New York Times have started their own Foursquare account to advertise events or their brand. A while ago, there was an article in the New York Times about Foursquare and that it’s now worth a ton of money, but it’s still a bit murky as to how this application can be harvested for real value. I haven’t done very much research, but it seems like Foursquare is not mainstream and is only being used by the geekiest geeks who want to go through the trouble of checking in. Correct me if I’m wrong.

There is a part of me that enjoys Foursquare because I like the idea of tracking where I’m going or the repetitive activity of checking in places and collecting them, or badges, or mayorships and around my town too. There’s a kind of thrill in seeing that we all go to the same places (tech enabling human connection?) and the city is actually so small. Because very few of my friends are into Foursquare, and most of my friends are types who would never be, it’s not all that social for me. In fact, I kind of wish it wasn’t attached to other people so I didn’t have to bother them with my updates or remind them that I exist, defeating perhaps the entire purpose of this SOCIAL network. I think of quitting it often, but then consider that it is a way to keep in touch with people that I like and don’t see often, it is kinda fun in some ways, and I like to participate in this stuff and see what it’s like and how people use it, even if I’m not the ideal user. Also, you never know, maybe it will really catch on and then I’ll be ahead of the game. I doubt it though, most people just can’t keep up being so intensely into themselves all the time. Just me; the amount that I’m into myself knows no bounds!

3 Responses to “Foursquare for squares?”

  1. MattS says:

    Sarah,
    I find the geo-tracking nature of Foursquare ready made for marketing… and far too Orwellian for my tastes.

    As much as I care where all my friends spend their time, it’s a passing curiosity at best. At some point the amount of data I can process about the people I know becomes white noise; useless in its breadth.

    On the other hand, companies would kill for this data. Along the same lines, I’ve heard that GPS enabled smart-phones will likely become free to subscribers who allow direct advertising based on geography. Imagine you’re walking through the Eaton Centre, and your phone says, “Matt, check out the sweet deal on graphic tees at Hollister.” I’d say, “damnit phone… you don’t know me at all.” My phone would then learn where I go, what I buy and allow for direct, targeted marketing that is completely personalized. There’s your creepy value add…

  2. sarah says:

    TOTALLY Matt! I was just talking in my blog about how *I* felt about it, being the selfish consumer I am, but companies capitalizing on our love of talking about ourselves, well whoa, the potential is huge and you’re right entirely creepy.

    My phone talks to Zagat who now has access to wherever I go and is says “hey looks like Sarah checked in to 4 Sushi places 4 weeks in a row on Friday.” Then Zagat can go to the Sushi restaurants they know and say, look, we’ve got a prime consumer for ya here, pay us money and we’ll send her information about your Sushi restaurant and there is a good chance that she’ll go next Friday.” You’re right, totally priceless info if they can target a consumer like that. And then I have my little phone in my hand that I take with me everywhere I go, brings me news from my friends and love ones, where I listen to my favourite music, beside my head while I sleep every night so I can wake up to the alarm, telling me about a great sushi place that i can go to on Friday, which is what I love to do! How do you know phone?? I will listen to whatever you say. Really builds emotionally charged connections with consumers. Not to mention the trust I have and will keep building with the brand, in this example Zagat. Ingenious!

    I’m paying for the service, using my own time and concentration to give them this valuable information, and then if the advertising works, I’m giving them more of my money to use the product that is advertised. My reward: knowing where my friends are and telling them where I am! It’s a newer version of buying and wearing branded clothes (i.e. being a human club monaco billboard with those formerly ubiquitous sweatshirts) times a million.

    Hey Matt, Upon re-reading my comment I think I’m just re-iterating your smart comment… which I should have included in my original post… so… thank you!!!

  3. Phronk says:

    I think location based stuff is just starting out as far as marketing goes. Yeah it does seem a little creepy to have targeted adverting of any kind (whether based on location or Facebook likes), but if I HAVE to see advertising, I’d rather it be for stuff I might actually buy.

    But for me Foursquare is just fun because I like useless data about myself. And the whole collection aspect. I do have a lot of friends who use it (and more and more people in London are using it in general), and it is kinda fun to have this constant shallow connection with friends and strangers, leaving their little impression wherever they go.

    This makes it even more fun: http://weeplaces.com/foursquare/

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