February 20th, 2010

On Foursquare

What is the point of Foursquare?  This social media location game is being billed as the next Twitter.  The application launched last March, and after a year of talk in social media circles, the New York Times has caught on and published an article about it.  This must mean it has finally reached its tipping point.  So, what is it and what is the point?

According to the site, Foursquare “is a cross between a friend-finder, a social city-guide and a game that rewards you for doing interesting things.”  Well, that explains it.  To put it more plainly: Foursquare is a social media application that allows for users to share their current location (businesses, restaurants, services) and offer tips about that location for other users.  For each check-in, a user is given points.  If you are the user that checks in the most at a particular location, you are deemed the “mayor” of that location (a title that can be stolen by the next person who checks in more frequently than you).  Some businesses are even giving “mayor discounts.”  Users can also be granted “badges” for doing interesting things at interesting places.  Yes, this is very vague.  I don’t exactly understand the badges yet, but per the Foursquare site:

“Badges are little rewards you earn for doing checking-into interesting places.  For example, staying out late on a school night or frequenting too many karaoke bars.  We’re constantly adding new badges and would love to hear your suggestions.

“A lot of our badges are tied to venue “tags”.  People use tags to describe the places on foursquare (e.g. jukebox, pool table, fireplace, pizza, etc)  Without giving away too much, here’s a few suggested tags you can add to your favorite places to help unlock badges :  airport, college, douchebag, food truck, frat, gallery, gym, karaoke, movie theater, photobooth, pizza, playground, socialite, sorority, tourist, etc.”

The honor of badges has even spawned an offline business called Nerd Merit Badges (brilliant!) that recently received approval from Foursquare to sell these badges for people to wear on their clothes, backpacks, etc. (there is even a velcro sash for attaching badges your laptop).  I am starting to see how this could be fun.  But, I am a bit of a nerd, too.

Admittedly, I haven’t used Foursquare much.  Yet.  I signed up when I first read about it;, but in the beginning, the cities were limited to only larger markets.  And although I could have still used it in Little Rock, it just felt pointless since no one else was really using it around me yet.  Recently, the service opened up to every city and we started to see some Little Rock users popping up.  So I spent some time checking it out.

The more I poked and prodded Foursquare, it first seemed that in order for Foursquare to be relevant, the user must route their updates through their Twitter feeds – a place where everyone is already hanging out.  But then I realized that the benefit of Foursquare over Twitter is that you can do a location search to find information about the place that you are or want to go.  Wait, isn’t that how we use Yelp, too?  Oh, but Yelp doesn’t have that game aspect and the nerdy-cool badges.  Ok.  So, I need Twitter, Foursquare and Yelp?!

Then, on top of it all, thieves are tapping into Foursquare to learn when we are home and when we are not?  Do we really need all of this?

For those of us who like to share our experiences and let others learn from our experiences: yes, we will use each and every one of these services.  For now.  Until the next iteration comes along and ties it all together and adds a new aspect.  We do this because it fun.  Because we like to help others out.  And because we are nerds.  But that is cool, right?

And that is the point of Foursquare: sharing, having fun, and giving the nerds something else to do.

Foursquare, here I come.

One thought on “On Foursquare

  1. So far (at least here in Little Rock), Foursquare is worthless for learning anything about a business. Admittedly I never access it from the desktop but on the iPhone it shows me what is nearby but little to no information about those places.

    Visit LR and you may wonder if Aristotle is a place to eat or something else. What is Vino’s? Other than a few places like Capital Bar & Grill you will learn very little useful information other than the location. At least Gowalla has an icon of what sort of food is served assuming the first person to check in picked the right category.

    Foursquare has a long way to go to be useful. It is entertaining, its a handy way to update Twitter and Facebook. It shows promise as a new customer loyalty program but it has a long way to go before it useful in learning about places.

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