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Fixing Foursquare

Over the summer, my friends and I loved using Foursquare. When we started checking-in, it was so fun to unlock badges and claim mayorships. It was a game that we played against each other. On very rare occasions, we actually received special treatment for being mayors and using the location-based service. It was super fun. But it’s not so fun anymore.

There’s a plateau. If you’re in a city like Madison, Wisconsin, there are only so many rewards you can get and so many things to do. Once you unlock these 10 or so badges, you can’t go any further. Location-based social media needs to evolve past mayorships to fight off Foursquare fatigue.

Go Local

It’ time for Foursquare to become more localized. They’re heading in the right direction with Foursquare for Universities, which was just launched last week. Essentially, Foursquare is selecting ambassadors to create a more personal, local connection with the college towns. This could be used in so many cool ways. It’s already being used for university tours, which helps smartphone clutching freshmen navigate a new campus (kids these days….).

Schools are able to create specialized badges for different campus hot-spots. I bet that students will love this. Anyone from Madison would appreciate getting a “Badger Badge” for attending a certain amount of UW sporting events, for example. Increasing the relevancy of badges for each University would keep college kids (and the adults that hang out on campus) more interested.

Even in the suburbs, there are interesting, badge-worthy things to do. I currently live within biking distance of the Minnesota Zoo, for example….it’s easy enough to make an “In the Wild” badge. The point is this: the more personal and specialized Foursquare feels to the user, the more a person is likely to use it.

Beyond Mayorships

It’s time to look beyond specials for just the mayor. Foursquare 2.0 for the iPhone was released this week, and it emphasizes the “Tips” and “To-Do” sections of the app. On the old interface, the hope was that people would leave friendly tips and comments about the place. Foursquare 2.0 also allows you to find to-do’s on the internet and add them to your Foursquare account as a reminder to go to that place or accomplish that to-do. Here, the possibilities for use are endless.

Businesses can create Tips/To-Dos that entice a patron to do something in exchange for a deal. Think about how word-of-mouth would spread if someone had to do a dance in the middle of a restaurant for a free meal, or you received a free appetizer if you brought in a crowd of 10. It will be cool to read a positive restaurant review online and then be able to “tag” that place, so you know where to go. Or, a business could put the “Add this to Foursquare” button on their website and create quick, mobile coupons. The “Add to Foursquare” button could be a really great tool for businesses to increase new visits and return customers.

Quick ideas

There are a ton of other things Foursquare can do to make sure its service stays fun and relevant to users. Here’s a quick list of ideas I’m stealing from other LBS services that would heighten the Foursquare experience:

  • Like Facebook Places, integrate other information about the venue. Link directly to the place’s webpage, put reviews up, and tie in the venue’s social media, if applicable.
  • Like SCVNGR, integrate “games” and “tasks.” Create scavenger hunts and other fun things to do. Give the user an incentive (even if it is just “fun”) to continue to use the service.
  • Allow users to pin photographs to the places.
  • Continue to partner with businesses, and work with group-buying companies like Groupon.
  • Foursquare is beginning to recommend places to go to. This one is a little touchy because people don’t like being told what to do, but imagine how useful this could be to travelers or people moving to new cities.

So, what does the future look like?

Like I said in a previous post, the possibilities for Foursquare are really endless. What we’re continuing to see in today’s world is a shift to a cross-platform experience; something you do or look at on the internet can be transferred seamlessly to your mobile phone. This is what Foursquare 2.0 is doing with its “Add this to Foursquare” buttons. It will be really cool to see how technology like this continues to grow in the future to create a better experience for consumers.

As location-based social media continues to become more mainstream and the options for which service to use become more numerous, Foursquare is going to have to continue to evolve in order to cater to the users’ needs. Hopefully, Foursquare and other services like it keep listening to what the consumers want so that location-based social media is still fun and relevant. I’ll keep checking-in as long as it remains fun and I get something out of it.

Tired of Foursquare too? How else could they keep it fun?

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  1. September 23, 2010 at 8:49 pm | #1

    Well done Tommy.

    I wrote a post on Foursquare’s inevitable failing if they didn’t alter their course a few months back:

    http://techcocktail.com/the-future-of-foursquare-value-or-novelty-2010-05

    My take was (and still is) not that mayorships will eventually hit a wall, but that they should be expanded, or at least the concept of rewarding purchasing behavior. If Foursquare could figure a way to become the all-in-one rewards program, it would become the most downloaded app, no doubt in my mind.

    Although, I do think if Foursquare took your approach and increased the ways in which they were rewarded in the “social gaming” aspect, this could also catch fire.

    All I know is that Foursquare needs to act fast, because if/when Facebook finally figures out a way to make Places compelling, Foursquare will be mentioned in the same breath as MySpace or Friendfeed (maybe Facebook should buy them?). It’s hard to compete with a half BILLION user base.

    Nice article.

    • September 23, 2010 at 10:09 pm | #2

      Hey Zach,

      Yeah, I think there would be a huge demand for Foursquare as a rewards program of some sort. There are so many ways that businesses could reward customers beyond mayorship specials. I think the biggest challenge at this point is proving to businesses that utilizing Foursquare is a solid strategy and investment. There are some pretty solid examples of great usage (AJ Bombers in Milwaukee is used quite a bit), so hopefully others follow suit soon. The more that embrace it, the bigger the snowball effect.

      They definitely need to get on it very quickly, because Places is already here. There are simply too many active users on it to ignore, and right now Foursquare is lucky that it isn’t all that fun. I also could see game platforms like SCVNGR growing; they’re fun and interactive in a way that Foursquare isn’t (yet).

      Thanks for commenting!

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