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Checking Out of Foursquare

Towards the end of 2009, predictions were ripe about the rise and proliferation of location based social networks. At the end of 2010, pundits said the year ahead belonged to the likes of Gowalla, Facebook Places and Foursquare. By the time we reached 2012, Facebook had shelved Places, snapped up Gowalla instead and shortly after closed it.

Foursquare, however,  survived. It launched in March 2009 and I jumped onboard less than a year later. Between then and now, 20 million people have joined and checked in 2 billion times to places and over 750,000 business, but for what?

 What Does Foursquare Do?

What they say is that Foursquare, “helps you and your friends make the most of where you are. When you’re out and about, use Foursquare to share and save the places you visit. And, when you’re looking for inspiration for what to do next, we’ll give you personalized recommendations and deals based on where you, your friends, and people with your tastes have been.”

This steer as a recommendation engine is a new one – when I joined, Foursquare was all about getting badges (for achievements), trouncing your friends on the leaderboard (you get points for checking into venues), Mayorships (which you gain by becoming the most frequenting foursquare user at a venue) and ultimately, rewards (businesses are able to use Foursquare to reward you for your loyalty).

But now? Now I can’t be bothered.

Or at least, I can’t be bothered to check in everyday as I have been.  I’m certainly no power user, but up to press I have checked in 1205 times, snatched 15 mayorships and amassed 28 badges. I have kept with it, checked in as I’m out and about and tried to find a place for it in my regular social routine.

An image of people using foursquare

It’s Not You, It’s Me

Foursquare does do everything it sets out to do. The problem is about what use it is to me and how my network uses it.

  • My network seem to have fallen out of love with foursquare too, so the leaderboard is sparse
  • I’ve collected all the badges I’m likely to be able to collect as a local here in Preston. The fun bit’s gone now
  • I have been rewarded only once for my Foursquare perseverance. In Australia. 10,000 miles away. Which leads me to believe that…
  • Businesses aren’t seeing enough active users to warrant offering a Foursquare Special or
  • Businesses aren’t aware of the benefits of integrating Foursquare into their marketing strategies
  • I gravitate to my more active networks for advice or recommendations (though I do leave recommendations on Foursquare)

So I’m checking out. At least, I am for every day use. As an exploratory/discovery tool, it’s fantastic : case in point, when I was in a faraway and unfamiliar city my wife and I fancied eating Malaysian. I used Foursquare to find all Malaysian restaurants, I read the reviews and tips to narrow the choice down and then I used the integrated maps to find our way there. What it fails as, for me, is as a social network.

So perhaps what Foursquare needs to do is decide what it is. Is it a recommendation engine? Is it a social network? A fragmented mission will lead to a disenchanted user base. Hopefully soon, Foursquare will find its feet.

Have I got it wrong? Have you had  a more positive experience with Foursquare? Is location based social networking ever going to work? Share your thoughts with us.

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