Published on December 2nd, 2010 | by charliesaidthat26
Why Foursquare is Broken
Geo just isn’t social… yet
I believe the main reason why location based services such as Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places have yet to make a large impression on the mass market is because it just isn’t social.
Sure you share where you are to Facebook or Twitter. You can even see where friends from your other social networks are hanging out. But what about people who just like to go to the same places as you? Facebook is for friends you know in real life. Twitter for meeting people with shared interests. Surely then, Foursquare should really be for connecting users that visit similar locations?
Foursquare should really connect users that frequent the same places and facilitate communication between them. Leaving tips and posting your messages to other social networks just doesn’t cut it.
The real value would be in recommending new places that users could like based on the places they already go to and actually being able to talk to the people that are in those same venues. I think this is especially important when it comes to arriving in a new city or part of town.
Social Etiquette Rules, OK?
We’ve established there’s not a satisfactory communication channel for users within Foursquare. Sharing notifications to other networks is disruptive and annoying to most people.
If this was the only anti-social issue with the services then it may be surmountable with enough users actively getting involved.
However, consider how antisocial checking-in is,
“a mobile location-based app like Foursquare [is] not only anti-social, but also distracts us from enjoying our surroundings because we’re so intent on documenting where we are.” ReadWriteWeb on ShinyShinyTV
I find myself checking in when I am on my own, bored at train stations, rather than when I am out with friends.
It seems there is a time and place for the “social” web and mobile apps.
I see the solution being that checking in should be made quicker and easier. If you were able to scan in at the entrances to shops on your phone like an oyster card or scan a QR code as you walk in, it’d give you the freedom to check in where you wanted, something auto check-ins can’t allow.
The Public: Barriers to Adoption
Besides the social factors discussed above there are other issues that are preventing Foursquare and other services from being adopted by the mass market. Problems with privacy and safety at home, cheating and stalking have been covered to death, although they aren’t entirely Foursquare’s problem.
There are far too many services currently available on the market, probably more than the handful you might have heard of (have a look at this list!), causing confusion as well as “check in fatigue” across several platforms.
I noticed today that Gowalla has taken a step to prevent “check in fatigue” by integrating with Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare.
Marketers: Barriers to Adoption
This article highlights some of the more pertinent points that I’m concerned with, such as the threat from the userbase of Facebook Places and that location gaming is just not “sticky” enough.
The threat that Facebook Places poses to Foursquare is mainly that it has a huge amount of:
b) data about those users.
To compete with Facebook, Foursquare would have to partner with other semantic check-in apps such as Miso or GetGlue to give marketers the same depth of user information about their targeted consumer’s behaviour.
There are opportunities for brands to utilise the hyperlocal geo-games, although I don’t believe that ‘gaming’ is the way forward. I think that a successful location based platform must offer the combination of social, sociable and serious functional use for users to keep coming back.
Have a Coffee on the house…
Rewarding your most loyal customers with freebies seems to miss the point of increasing the loyalty of your customer base and attracting new customers. It also increases the likelihood of cheating the game.
Hyperlocal information when used correctly is probably most useful to small local companies (who are usually less tech savvy), whilst larger companies may not need the local CRM as they already have loyalty cards.
What does the future hold?
But I think it is critical that developers of these applications realise that they need to tap into public behaviour and solve real life problems.
This is a bunch of stuff I’d love to see:
- A communication channel, so users can interact within the platform.
- Swipe in check-ins (or other method) to speed up the check-in process and make it less anti-social.
- Beat the queues by pre-ordering your drinks and meals at coffee shops/restaurants by swiping in with a message whilst on your way in, saving waiting time later.
- Recommending new places, especially in new cities, based on where you have already been.
- Services from different industries partnering together so places could be recommended based on people with similar music tastes, choice of TV and movies or products bought.
- Data visualisation of places like http://chromaroma.com/
- Further integration of foursquare into loyalty schemes and moving away from *only* rewarding ‘mayors’ like Pepsi & Safeway.
- Connecting with point of sale so stores know:
- How much you spent
- Who you go there with
- When you were last there
- Where you go before / after.
- Stores able to offer deals to anyone nearby – not just mayors.
Have I got this right? What would you like to see from location based services in the future?
Let me know what you think below.