Foursquare went through a recent redesign that de-emphasized “check-ins” while permitting integration with a coterie of second-tier apps (most notably Path and Instagram). The new and “improved” Foursquare appears to be a vaguely-defined, schizophrenic Yelp.
Foursquare 1.0 was a pretty straightforward application. Check-in at venues to get deals, try to acquire enough points to impress your friends and win imaginary civic positions (“Mayorships”), overshare this information with all of your social networks until the deals, gamification or the collective patience of your friends wears thin. I avoided the oversharing part, but cop to being the former mayor of many establishments in Redmond, Washington (I should have tried wrest control of Microsoft from Mayor Ballmer). In fact I got a lot of free pizza from Papa John’s (whose employees allow me to walk into their store multiple times to check-in for their ill-advised no-strings-attached giveaway). As a medium for deals or advertising, I never saw a lot of opportunity with Foursquare.
The Foursquare redesign comes at a pivotal time for geo apps. Highlight (despite the fact that it didn’t make the impact that I hoped it would) raised the bar by pushing notifications to users based upon their location. I recently wrote a piece proposing a cheap geo campaign that any business could implement today with Highlight despite its low usage, yet when I consider Foursquare in either iteration (1.0 or 2.0) it’s difficult to pinpoint how a business could effectively leverage the functions to justify spend on the site. Google’s Project Glass is also on the horizon, which will probably become the preeminent geo device when it comes into the mainstream (imagine looking at a building and seeing a deal pop into your vision, then compare that with sifting through an app to find something a few miles away).
So the 2.0 redesign. You can now integrate Foursquare with other applications to enhance your experience (listed below). Beer recommendations and Lufthansa content – whoo-hoo! All of the other bells and whistles, map integration – the specifics are less interesting that the takeaway from the experience. If I had no context I would be hard pressed to understand what Foursquare does. Even with context, it’s difficult to describe because they have so many things going on, and will soon add Groupon-style coupons on top of that. It’s kind of a mess.
The one curiousity that I found is that Foursquare’s push notification service call “Radar” is presented as an opt-in option. If Foursquare would have turned on Radar notifications by default (opt-out) I would have an entirely different viewpoint about the possibilities of advertising on their platform. Instead of relying on users to perform a task to leverage the platform, the platform could be leveraged simply by being in physical proximity to a business with your smartphone. For users opt-in is probably a good thing, but if I were a business trying to determine whether to advertise on Foursquare the reliance on user goodwill would have me quite apprehensive to spend budget here.
In terms of the big picture, Dennis Crowley (the founder of Foursquare) sees Foursquare 2.0 as a rival to Yelp. The problem with his aspiration is that Foursquare’s audience is fickle where Yelp’s is huge and consistent. Businesses will likely continue to focus people’s feedback towards Google+, Zagat and Yelp to leverage reviews to inform search, and the user proposition for Foursquare was never to write a bevy of reviews.
Foursquare isn’t making a profit, and it’s hard for me to look at their updated app and believe that they’ll be a viable social player once Project Glass shifts the paradigm for location-based services.
Here is the list of connected apps (from the Foursquare blog):
- Eat This, Not That – From Men’s Health Mag, Eat This, Not That tells you what dishes to order and what to avoid at restaurants when you check in
- Untappd - Shows recommendations from friends and others on which beer to order, and easily check-in to beers from within foursquare
- Sonar – Informs you of your connections to interesting people nearby
- Soundtracking – Share and discover songs your friends have shared at a place
- Snoball – Trigger charity donations when you check in, and tells you about friends’ donations
- Foodspotting – Share and get recommendations on which dishes to order
- GroupMe - Makes it easier to share your check-in with a group of friends on GroupMe
- Blue Legends - Notifies you when you earn extra rewards for checking into Lufthansa venues
- Instagram – Share your Instagram photos on foursquare, which friends can see and tap through to the Instagram app
- Path – Share photos and text from Path, which tap through to the Path app
- The Weather Channel – Get the weather forecast with your first check-in of the day and when you check in to a new city