Friday 18 June 2010

Why I've given up on Foursquare. For now...

Before I go any further, and in the style of a newspaper football report, I'll give you the ending before going back to the start and explaining:

I've given up on Foursquare because I don't see the point of it!

That's not the only reason, there are a few others such as cost-benefit trade off, the hassle of managing multiple social networks and uptake by friends - but the main one is really that I'm not sure I get it.

To my credit, I gave it a go.  As a natural sceptic (I'm sure I've mentioned that I prefer to call this pragmatism), I was sitting on the negative side of the fence already but I put this aside and decided to run with it for a couple of months.  In that time I think that I had 'some' success - I developed an, albeit small, network of friends, achieved a few badges and am mayor of 5 places - a couple of which I even added myself.  But beyond the (very) limited bragging rights, I really don't see what I got out of it...

With any such application, in order for it to achieve any sort of success there has to be a balance, a trade-of between cost and benefit for the consumer.

I can see what the locations/places get out of it - they do nothing but get their name and location featured.  If they go so far as offering an incentive for the mayor or check-ins then they may also get a bit more free publicity and also get to be seen as current and trendy (does just using a word like "trendy" show me up for being anything but?).

For Foursqare itself, I can also see the benefit - a constantly user-updated list of locations and business premises, categorised according to type, with a (relative) indication of popularity.  They also gain an understanding of their users habits and preferences.  All of this is of course fantastic info for advertising and promotional activity.  Added to the fact that location is the holy grail for advertising relevance it's a no-brainer there - although my main caveat here is that it's a no-brainer as long as you have a critical mass of users that you can advertise to....

As a user though, what do I get?  

I have to think about another social network to keep updated, I have to remember to find the location and check-in via the app.  It seems like that isn't a lot of fuss, but when you balance it against the benefit, it is, because I'm not sure I see any benefit.

Foursqare is just too one-dimensional for me.  If (or should I say when?) Facebook adds a similar check-in feature, the information immediately has context and relevance in the realm of my existing friends sharing what they are doing.  Outside of this wider context, it's just a list of where people have been which, if you're anything like me, wears thin pretty quickly.

By way of an analogy, I saw an interesting article discussing why people object to news site paywalls - the argument being that basically although you are happy to pay for a physical newspaper, this is worth it because they offer more than just news, they aggregate much more information such as news, sports, weather, gossip, entertainment etc. etc. and are digested in a more information-sparce context.  However online behaviour is different in that consumers are far happier using different sources for their information - Sky Sports for footy stories, the BBC for news, Mashable for social media/tech trends, Tech Tree for the latest in technology and maybe even Perez Hilton for gossip - moreover online, information is ubiquitous, so why should you pay for it...?

Is there a future for Foursquare?

Well, Foursqare appears to be gaining some momentum, but I would be very surprised if this ever gets anywhere outside the congestion zone - it's a London-digital thing.  So in it's current guise, no.

However, and I would guess that this is the real play, were Foursquare (or it's functionality) to be integrated to an existing social networking site, this would be a massive boost.  Take your existing network of friends and allow them to check-in to a location, share their status/ what they are doing and upload pictures of themselves there - now it starts to have a context and benefit...


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