The king (or should I say the mayor) of geo-location social networks, Foursquare hit a big milestone this week – 100 million check-ins and the company is only in its sophomore year. Not bad! For those of you who haven’t yet jumped on the bandwagon, you might be wondering just what the hype’s all about. Here’s a quick look at what Foursquare is, what’s good about it, what’s not so good, and what’s next!
What is it? Foursquare is a geo-location social network that connects over 2 million users to their friends and rewards them for checking in to businesses and events all over the globe with points, Badges, and other incentives. As a user you can see where your friends are on your phone, give them tips, ask questions, and download various Apps to further enhance the experience. As a business owner, you can use Foursquare to give people incentives to visit you.
What’s in it for users? Foursquare offers its users incentives on many levels. Most obviously, it’s a fun game! The more check-ins you have, the more points you get, the more elevated your status in the game becomes (you can become the Mayor of the places you frequent), and the more likely you are to win the mysterious Badges. I have no idea how many Badges there are, but this list has almost 200 ranging from the Entourage badge (“Look at you, checking-in with 10 of your friends in tow! You’re so popular!”) to the All Right Now Badge (“Congratulations, you’ve discovered 5 of Stanford University’s most interesting places. BEAT CAL!”) to the Road Warrior Badge (“You’re making the world a mappier place one checkin at a time!”). Foursquare intentionally keeps Badges and their requirements top secret, making the acquisition of one all the more exciting.
Adding tangible prizes to the mix, sponsors are getting in on the action and offering users retail discounts and special deals. Domino’s recent UK promotion was a wild success. Barbie did a promotional scavenger hunt. The History Channel, VH-1, and Bravo all sponsor Badges.
So, who wouldn’t like Foursquare? Plenty of people, actually. Many are put off, and maybe even scared, by the idea of everyone knowing their whereabouts all the time. This is understandable as Foursquare users do sacrifice quite a bit of privacy in order to excel. Others see platforms like Foursquare and Facebook as a confluence of narcissists at their finest. You’ll hear these naysayers ask, “Who in the world cares that I went to the dentist this morning before meeting my friend at the falafel stand on the corner?” Others challenge the purpose of Foursquare. Yelp, a competing geo-location network, focuses on sharing detailed user reviews of businesses. Arguably this is more “useful.” More technical gripes include its draining effect on phone batteries and the fact that you can’t check in from your lap top.
What’s next for Foursquare? Some consider geo-location a passing trend, but I’m not convinced. I think Foursquare has bigger, better days ahead. Co-founder Dennis Crowley recently revealed that a potential partnership with a major search engine like Microsoft, Google, or Yahoo could be in the works. Explaining the significance of this, he said, “Foursquare would allow people to search for the types of places people are going to – and where is trending – not what.” Who knows if his dream of a where-based world will come true, but in the meantime I’ll try to get as many Badges as I can!