two weeks on foursquare

I don’t own a smartphone. Well, technically I do.  It’s an old BlackBerry but it’s dumb because it lacks a data package. Not smart, I know.  I’m waiting to switch to an Android device once my contract with Rogers ends.

However, from time to time I get blessed with a smartphone to test drive.  The latest one was a Sony Ericsson X10 mini.  It’s an Android-powered touchscreen phone that sits in the palm of your hand.  For the past two weeks, its been a joy to use.

I took this opportunity to not just test the phone but also a popular app called Foursquare.

According to Wikipedia, “Foursquare is a location-based social networking website, software for mobile devices, and also a game. Users “check-in” at venues using a mobile website, text messaging or a device-specific application. They are then awarded points and sometimes “badges.””

People within the marketing and digital space, such as Mitch Joel and Chris Brogan, have opined about Foursquare recently. 

Now it’s my turn.  Here are some observations from my two weeks with Foursquare:

  1. 3rd Party Apps.  Some people didn’t like it when I my check-in’s on Foursquare were posted on my Twitter feed.  Okay, only one person actually told me.  I can’t say for sure if anyone else was upset.  My Twitter followers increased by more than 200 during the time period I was using Foursquare.  But that doesn’t mean there is any correlation between the two.  I understand not everyone is going to like everything I tweet about.  To say that 3rd party apps is annoying is baseless, I feel.  What’s the difference if I tweet: “I’m at work” rather than using Foursquare to say the same thing?  I don’t see the difference.  Maybe it’s just a personal preference.
  2. Weird locations.  Why people have to create locations about their partner’s body parts is beyond me.
  3. Value of badges and Mayoralships.  I’ve heard that Starbucks gives free coffee to “mayors” and I’ve seen Freshii give discounts as well.  However, what is the real value of having badges such as “25 check-ins” or being the mayor of a gas station?  There are locations, brands and company’s that may not be fully in-tune with Foursquare.  Heck, many are still figuring out the why and how about Facebook.  Nevertheless, I think there can be great value if a brand sponsors a badge or recognizes someone who is the mayor of their location.  Imagine getting free food if you’re the mayor of your local pizza store?  Or getting a signed jersey if you’re the mayor of the Air Canada Centre?
  4. Employee Check in.  Is your boss paying you based on what time you check in on Foursquare at work?  If brands want to reward people through Foursquare, then having employees check-in us counterproductive.
  5. Tips.  Many of the places I checked into had no tips.  And the ones that did have tips were not so useful.  I do know that the city of Chicago uses the Tip section to educate and encourage visitors and tourists to see various locations throughout the city.  More brands need to take ownership of this feature to let their consumers and fans know what is going on.  Theaters and cinemas would be well advised to at least put show times and other show information in this section.
  6. Only for smartphones.  Although Foursquare is popular it has yet to grow at the same rate as other more recent social media tools.  My thoughts: only people with smartphones can really use Foursquare.  You can’t use it via SMS or even if you login to your account via your desktop.  I think Foursquare should invest in SMS technology.  Why?  Gaining a share in this market can only lead to more use by consumers and more adoption by brands.  Foursquare can only win.
  7. Goldmine.  Although most brands may not have figured out how to take advantage of consumers using Foursquare, marketers can and should be.  Location-based social networking apps like Foursquare and Gowalla may (or may not) be the next marketing frontier.  Those who find a cool, fun and innovative way to engage with users and consumers will benefit from being at the forefront.

Do you or have you used Foursquare?  I would love to hear your thoughts on this tool.  Please feel free to comment.