I am little behind on my blog posts, lots of travelling for Yellow Pages Group in the past few weeks, but I have been meaning to post some thoughts regarding my usage of FourSquare. For anybody who has connected with me on twitter account, @darbysieben you probably have noticed that I have been all over foursquare lately.
For those of you who are not familiar with FourSquare – here is the summary:
– Get an account and install FourSquare on your phone – you need a smart phone (here is the link to foursquare in iTunes)
– When you visit a place, you simply open the application on your phone and “Check-In”. This will broadcast to your FourSquare friends (or Twitter and Facebook if you choose) that you have “Checked-In”
– You collect points for check-ins, providing tips or entering new locations and if you check in enough times in a location you become the mayor, some businesses will provide incentives for being the mayor
– You collect badges based on a variety of types of checkins. Here is my list of badges (my wife was joking with me that she outgrew badges in Brownies)
Personally, I think FourSquare is an interesting concept with respect to the “gaming” concept by using location as a way to compete with friends through points, badges or mayorship, the ability to discovery new venues and as a way to record your movements to broadcast to your friends.
In a nutshell – fun, discovery and ego massaging.
When I was in Hawaii at the end of January, I first experienced the concept of using FourSquare as discovery. Check out the screenshots below when I checked in to the Apple Store in Waikiki:
You will notice the “Special Nearby” green icon at the top. I suspect this is generating a massive amount of click throughs and as you see below when you click through, I was presented a 10% of at Doraku Sushi.
This concept is pretty cool from a user discovery perspective – it can lead a user to potentially check out a new venue based on an offer. This has interesting implications for local businesses.
Because I broadcasted my locations to my friends on Facebook and Twitter, people were commenting and telling us about places to check out. It was interesting to see people from all over the world give us advise on our trip. This was a pretty cool and another great example of discovery, this time through my social network.
Data Problem With User Generated Content in FourSquare
After using FourSquare for the past month there are some problems with data in this application from a user perspective that I believe need to be addressed to move the concept of check-in into the mainstream.
Nothing is more frustrating that wanting to check in to a location and the location is not recognized in the database. This happen to me in the US and in Canada. Although a user can add a location and get 5 points, I am not sure this is a mainstream approach. I would identify data the source of verified data and still allow a user to enter a new location, but when it is a business that has been there for years, it seems like a unnecessary layer of friction. I would also allow users to enter information inside the merchant page for the business. I have missed a number of check-ins because of lack of data in the FourSquare database.
The other thing I have noticed about FourSquare UG content is that some people are entering locations multiple times – likely so that they can become the mayor of that location. This is frustrating as well. For example most Airports I have passed through have multiple entries. There needs to be some data cleansing or monitoring.
If FourSquare does not address the data issue, I think this could result in them losing their advantage in the long-run. Although Mavens, as described by Malcomn Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point, will get you usage early, you need the masses to make a long-term sustainable business. The check-in concept is likely to be commoditized and I think data accuracy combined with smart UG content will be a key driver to who wins this space.
For Local Businesses
In the short-run, for any local business that has already starting leveraging social media – make sure you location is accurate within the FourSquare database. Second – provide an incentive for your “mayor”. Here are some examples of what companies are doing for their mayors.
Many people are talking online that check-ins will become commoditized and I think you will see major players around the globe will move into this space. If they do, there is a distribution play for local businesses based on the promotion of special offers, enhanced content (reviews, videos, photos) etc. The key for local businesses at this point is to digitize their content for the web and mobile and then distribute.
The problem with my Doraki Sushi example above was that my interest was peaked – 10% off Sushi (I like Sushi) but I wanted more information that simply a name and an offer. Show me pictures, give me a video, perhaps a menu in the case of a business – give me (the user) more information.
I think there is a synergy between users and businesses in this example. Users will want more information to help in making a decision and businesses want more opportunities to present why you should visit them. Provided the user experience is one that the user selects as opposed to be forced, then I think you have a winning combination that satisfies all parties
The privacy issue is an interesting one. Many of my friends or my wife’s friends are horrified about the fact that I would broadcast my location. There are privacy implications here. When I was in Hawaii, it did cross my mind that I am broadcasting to the world that I am not home (however, I then realized I am not that important and I doubt there is a person out there who is waiting for me to leave my house to rob).
Check out PleaseRobMe.com – a site that broadcasts people in who have left their home – so maybe I need to be more concerned.
A THOUGHT: I wonder if an insurance company will challenge somebody who gets broken into as “irresponsible” if they broadcasted that they were not home and this promoted somebody to break into their house.
I don’t think the issue lies with FourSquare or any of the players who release a check-in service – this is opt in – but users need to understand what this means. You are telling your friends, co-workers, insurance company, potential people that want to harm you, etc. where you are and what does that means for you. This could have negative impacts.
Check-In Service will become more popular and will be incorporated in many applications and eventually become commoditized.
Users will want a combination of accurate data + the ability to provide user generated content. They want control to contribute but I think it will go beyond just providing name/address information.
Users will want more information in the discovery process. They love the deal, but give them more content – videos, photos, menus, reviews, etc. – let the user go deeper in the discovery mode for local businesses from a check-in.
Local Businesses need to embrace digitization of their content and the management of that content. Check-in will become a distribution point.
Commercial real estate prices will increase because many people are checking into a particular area, location, location, location. This is probably not true but I wonder if social media could help in further articulating why one commercial location has a higher value than another – could check-ins become a supporting metric for foot traffic?
What Do You Think?
Is there a future for check-in?
Do you think users will want more information about a local business?
Do you think local businesses will embrace and provide offers?
Do you broadcast your location?
If you want more interesting reading on FourSquare, check out the following posts:
FourSquare and Geo-Games: The Future of Local?
Dennis Crowley (Foursquare): Check-ins Will Be “Commodity by the End of the Year.”