Foursquare is an emerging mobile network that connects people and places through mobile phones. While it isn’t the only player in the space, Foursquare does appear to be the game to beat. The 800 pound gorilla is Facebook Places but other geo-location nicheworks are also growing including Loopt and Gowalla. Each equally bring together the real and virtual worlds, unlocking the world around consumers through checkins and supporting gaming mechanics and social effects integrated into the experience. Foursquare has blazed the trail and as a result, it’s rewarded with escalating consumer adoption and engagement.
In July 2011, Foursquare announced that it had surpassed 10 million users. While that number may seem paltry in comparison to Facebook’s recently validated number of 750 million active users, Foursquare’s state is indicative of its potential and also reflective of the future of geo-location networking. Where we are and where we’re going are potentially divergent, but history dictates our present. Foursquare is growing rapidly and that counts for everything at the moment.
To mark the milestone, Foursquare released a telling nfographic. To better tell the Foursquare story, I dissected the infographic into stages.
From Zero to 10,000,000
Just two years into its endeavor, Foursquare hit 10 million users. In comparison, some estimate that it took two years for Twitter to reach one million users.
Foursquare is known for sharing interesting facts. Here we see that 4.7 million people have checked into a “Main st” across the U.S. In two years, 169 countries were visited by U.S. users. Quite telling in terms of international adoption, there are over 358 million checkins outside of the U.S. I remember a time when I would travel internationally and would have to add every location I visited. I’d often hold mayorships for months all over the world. It didn’t last very long however. I don’t believe I hold any international mayorships now.
I believe that one of the most valuable achievements of Foursquare and also services such as Yelp and Groupon is the creation of a new layer of engagement and relationships between local businesses and patrons. Foursquare reported the most popular chains across the U.S. Foursquare breaks out checkins as follows:
Bank of America
Happiness is a metric worth measuring and as such, the Foursquare team did not disappoint. The team spotlighted three cities, London, New York, and Hong Kong to open a window into the sentiment associated with each checkin. The blue pixels represent varying states of awesome, happy and okay. To the contrary, red represents shifting emotional landscape ranging from black to sucks to wtf. Interestingly checkins with “yay” outnumber “ugh” 6 to 1.
Even though Foursquare means business, it is an incredibly personal tool. As demonstrated with these telling facts, weddings and births are not beyond the checkin. To date, over 1,000 birth announcements were published in hospital checkins. Speaking of new beginnings, between parks, churches, and city halls, over 6,300 weddings checked in to Foursquare.
Each day, 78,000 mayors are ousted. I know, because I’m one of them. However, only 1 real world mayor exists on Foursquare. That honor goes to @MikeBloomberg, Mayor of City Hall, NYC.
The Games Businesses Play with Customers
Boomers and Generation X will remember the days when the Yellow Pages was the encyclopedia of local business. Now services such as Foursquare bring the Yellow Pages alive. Add to the fact that the people we know and trust share their experiences and endorsements or critiques with every checkin, we’re given access to something quite remarkable. Additionally, businesses are given a special opportunity to learn more about the people who are checking-in and also about those who are not. Foursquare offers a powerful set of business tools that can help local businesses, chains, destinations, you name it, more effectively connect with the people who can not only keep them in business, but grow it as well.
Indeed, 10 million users isn’t comparable to the numbers published by Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or YouTube. But, the insight that stems from how millions of people experience businesses, brands, and the world around them is priceless. There’s much to learn from studying relevant behavior even if it means engagement isn’t yet necessary. However, what businesses can learn is nothing short of a formula for future relevance, improved sales, and the creation of more meaningful experiences that yield loyal relationships with networked consumers. Either way, if you’re a venue owner or a brand, isn’t it time to checkin to the future of business?
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Of course, this also means there are 10MM people out there generally annoying the other 2.1B who could care less about where these people have checked in, which random stranger they’ve ousted as Mayor of Nobody Cares Cafe, or that they are Mayor of Homebased Business Worldwide HQ (their living rooms). Lamepants.
Location-based services have real potential, but maybe when more seamless/transparent and possibly tied to offers a la Groupon. As it stands right now, I hear more stories of people being recognized/rewarded by businesses by mentioning them on Twitter while on-location than I do about people getting some kind of benefit out of Foursquare.
What would make Foursquare more meaningful to people? How about automatically checking you in when you go places, and only updating your stream when you realize some sort of meaningful benefit from doing so? “I just got a free lunch at Joes for eating lunch here twice last month!” Tack a smaller, yet valuable offer to the update so friends get something potentially valuable out of the deal, (and only push the update to people within a reasonable distance from the location), and I think it would be more useful.
As it stands, Foursquare is the biggest business case for development of an application allowing users to selectively block updates based on platform instead of account. Happy to follow you, but every time I see a Foursquare update about places and people I neither know no care about, I ask myself, “Do I really want to keep following you?”
Both FourSquare and Facebook Places work with local businesses to offer “deals” to consumers. Much like Groupon, people can win free food/prizes for checking in or bringing friends, etc.
Completely agree, and as a daily user of Foursquare myself. Check ins should remain within Foursquare unless they convey some benefit to someone else on another social network, such as a local offer, tip, desire to share an activity etc. Even then, ideally, the check in should be targeted to those with a potential interest, via [at] mention prefix or hashtags.
This happens across multiple apps – Empire Ave, Farmville, Klout… you name it – however, and should be seen as a user faux pas, rather than an inherent flaw in Foursquare itself. At the heart of it, used sensibly, LBS offer an opportunity to discover/share great experiences, connect with others in similar interest groups, and access special offers based on proximity. That they haven’t taken off as quickly as other social networking phenomena is more down to the limits of technology and the undeniable question mark over flagging one’s location in certain instances. Once those hurdles have been negotiated, I feel the potential benefits will greatly outweigh the negatives and some service leaders will emerge.
There is definitely a fine line here. Do we really need to know about every time someone is at the dentist or eating another lunch out? Definitely can get a little annoying at times, but an interesting new medium.
I agree, Rich. There is a fine line here and I think the biggest problem is when people use their business profiles for personal experiences. That is where you are getting all the updates you don’t care about. I hate when I follow a business just to find out it is an individual going here and there.
Putting a non US spin on it, Foursquare probably does not have the traction or universal appeal as say Twitter. Cultural factors, such as NYC centric badges, coupled with the well documented security concerns are all barriers to it being taken up so readily.
What’s not called out in the infographics is it’s popularity in other cities. I live and work in London and I’m genuinely underwhelmed by the volume of offers available and the type of offers. Typically it may be only a small handful of established brands (domino’s etc).
A one size fit all model does not suit location based services. For LBS to truly thrive it should open up badges to the local markets. Likewise it should experiment with its pricing models in local markets to see what sticks as well maximising it’s appeal to independent business.
You know, I couldn’t agree more with you…I spend a lot of time in Europe and I would love to see this.
As to this day, I have yet to sign up at Foursquare. Can it really boost a business brand or is it more about being easily located than anything else?
Interesting relationship between the growth of mobile & local business. Foursquare is the middle of it all providing augmented reality and increasing business efficiency, this is going to be the most amazing century
4 Square is defiantly a game changer for social media in the Same way QR codes are converting offline experiences to online mobile experiences 4 Square is doing the same for local businesses.
Studying relevant behavior and customizing your message and what media you use to broadcast what you’ve learned is the X Factor in direct marketing.
Knowing the subtle nuances about your prospects and buyers… if the majority of them are dentists for example… allows you to weave content and sales copy that speaks directly to them and I guarantee this will boost response to your advertising more than if you just used a one-size-fits-all approach to market – which most companies do.
When the ninjas in the market start using what they learn from services like Foursquare to broadcast a precise message to market match, watch out. They’re gonna eat their competition’s lunch.
Great blog, I honestly never thought Foursquare would get this big when I first heard about it a few years ago.
I don’t see Foursquare lasting too long because people will start to get bored in lose interest with their whole check-in system
Well i was reading about Foursquare and get to know that it’s quite helpful for business. Will try it for sure.
Great post. Awesome results from 4SQ! Indeed a service that has really changed the game…
As you rightly point out, scale will continue to be a challenge for all upstart LBS services trying to attract (big) brand attention. The smart brands, however, will get in early and learn how to build relationship and community with tech savvy patrons…
Its subsequent application will be better if the developers more appropriate
Insightful post Brian! I never thought Foursquare would become such a prominent player.
What would make Foursquare more meaningful to people? Ask travel brands!
What I love about this post is not the evolution of geo-location, but how it clearly demonstrates how a company can use its data to create a compelling value proposition. The data doesn’t focus on why 4SQ is great, it’s completely user focused. More companies need to mine their data and present it in a meaningful manner. For example, instead of Verizon and ATT fighting over coverage, lets hear cool stats around data usage, downloads, best/worst customer stories, power users…. 4SQ has created a Lifestyle brand and the carriers are Functional brands. As for Facebooks geo-location, it is nothing more then a feature. When it comes to Happiness, 4SQ is the horse to beat.