Foursquare: Do or Die Time?

17 Aug

Here’s something interesting: I often look to the media for blog post ideas, but this time it seems to have happened in reverse. Case in point: a few weeks back I heard a broadcast from Marketplace Radio speaking to Foursquare’s CEO. Amazingly, just a few weeks prior I asked this very question on LinkedIn: “Has Foursquare’s time passed?” There were several good answers and a general consensus that it’s too early to tell.

Not long after I posted my question, Foursquare released a major update to its mobile app and got its PR machine cranking. What’s interesting here is that both Marketplace and I shared the same thought: Foursquare was introduced in 2009, gained massive popularity, and has been gradually cooling off ever since. Is that a sign of its having peaked already or just the fleeting attention span of the digerati?

Life After Death of the Check-In

“Life After Death of the Check In” -Jon Mitchell via ReadWriteWeb

Earlier this year, months before any of this, Jon Mitchell of ReadWriteWeb did this excellent and provocative article on the death of the check in. He rightly notes that it can be overkill:

…it’s a mundane performance of “I’m at the grocery store!” which is annoying noise to one’s friends and followers.

I started using it in early 2011, out of curiosity and to have something to do – like taking photos – while waiting in line at places or making art out of routine trips to places like, well… the grocery store. Hey, at least I try to make my activity interesting – but I sure as heck do NOT post every single update to Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Grocery Store Art

I took all these photos of my local grocery store with my phone for Foursquare check-ins.
I always try to include a photo with each one. Hey, it keeps me entertained.

Businesses Could be Using Foursquare Better

Here’s the secret ingredient: Photos. Include fun photos of your storefront, employees (smiling, preferably), specials, or a behind-the-scenes view of what’s going on. These kind of unique details draw people in, and it can certainly be endearing to customers. I’d love to see an “ask us about this photo” post at some place I check in, then feel like an insider when I take them up on the offer. I’d be getting to know the business better, and maybe even getting a special deal.

I’m glad to see Foursquare innovating and I look forward to what’s next. The real test will be adoption. It won’t be genuinely interesting  until more businesses and users get in on it and get creative. I just hope the next major developments don’t take as long – and with any luck they won’t. I’m sure Foursquare itself has also surely noticed its buzz decline, like Marketplace and your humble author.

What do you think? Are you on Foursquare? Have you been on it and lost interest? Have you ever gotten a deal somewhere because through the app? Let us hear from you in the comments!

4 Responses to “Foursquare: Do or Die Time?”

  1. Amanda Powell (@AmandaLeePowell) August 23, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    Thanks for the follow back! I’ve been browsing through your blog and this post caught my eye. I have used Foursquare for about a year and a half and still use the app daily for several reasons.

    -I still like the points competition with my friends. I only have a handful of friends but that’s enough for me.
    -Sometimes I use it to jog my memory. Just last week, I couldn’t remember the last movie I watched in theaters so I reviewed my check-ins.
    -Mayorships are fun too. I’ve checked into new places and found friends that were mayor and used that as an opportunity to find out more or just connect with a friend.
    -I most commonly use the app for tips, especially at restaurants. It’s nice to get a fellow patron’s input on the best dishes or get details about the service. Also, viewing nearby restaurants/shops and getting a little scoop helps me make dining and shopping choices.

    I think the various app features offers some cool stuff outside of the annoying ‘here’s where I am and what I’m doing and what I’m seeing’ feature of the check-in.

    • rsmithing August 23, 2012 at 1:35 pm #

      Amanda, you are a Foursquare Jedi — the Force is strong in you! I totally agree there’s much more to it than “here’s where I am,” as you accurately describe. And like you, I most commonly refer to it for tips. I especially enjoy sharing a good one, like at the pet-friendly pet store here in town: “Watch where you step in the parking lot!

  2. Paul Cahill August 17, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

    Great analysis. I use Foursquare probably once a week now. It used to be multiple times a day.

    I also appreciate that you don’t post to twitter each time you are somewhere. I think the beauty of Foursquare is being to look back on a trip and less about publication.

    • rsmithing August 17, 2012 at 6:11 pm #

      Dude, I’m right there with you. I wanted to understand Foursquare, so I made myself engage with it nearly everywhere… but that got to be almost pointless after a while. So I deleted it from my phone, but reinstalled it because I still wanted to use it occasionally… which means, like yourself, about once a week. You make a great point about looking back on a trip; I’ve gotten the most out of the app when travelling.

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