I used to think there were three types of people in this world:
- Avid Foursquare users – those that check-in to foursquare religiously and have several mayorships, always vying for the top spot on their leaderboards;
- Casual Foursquare users – the check-in once in a while crowd, usually only at certain events, through other social apps that give you the option or when reminded by someone in group #1 ; and
- Foursquare non-users - those that have have either never heard of foursquare or think they are too cool to broadcast to the world where they are in exchange for points and digital badges.
With all of the hoopla around foursquare and its partnerships with deal sites over the last couple weeks, there’s no question check-in behavior is going to shift.. but how much? I think the change could be significant, and here’s why.
The first thing you should know is that I very rarely use foursquare – you can throw me right in with the rest of group #2. You might see a slew of check-ins from me once every couple of weeks at an event through @hashable, or bragging about being at the airport on my way to South Beach, but that’s really about it.
Well something odd happened to me the other day: I found myself checking-in 2 times in one day (*GASP!*), unsolicited mind you, and using the actual foursquare app on my iPhone. I couldn’t help but notice because there was a lot of extra effort involved in having to find the big blue checkbox icon buried deep in my app graveyard, somewhere amongst my collection of old beta tests and other seldom-used social apps (it was next to Color). Something had tipped the scales in favor of making that effort. Actually, the scales never even existed before in the first place. I’m just one guy and I could be wrong, but if they tipped for me, I think they just might start to tip for others as well.
How it all changed: about two weeks ago, I stopped by @WeWorkLabs Soho to say hello to @ScottBrit and @srcasm and see how Sfter and guyhaus were coming along (very well, if you’re wondering). That’s when I was first introduced to Jason Fertel. Jason (@fertel) is the founder of Freespeech, a group messaging app, but I didn’t know it at the time because he was enthusiastically explaining his new project - DealBurner (check out the story on BetaBeat here). When I asked him what DealBurner was all about, he asked me first if I use foursquare (not a good start), and then Facebook Places (seriously?).
Just as I was about to write the whole thing off, he said something to the effect of, “you’re going to want to start”. Ok, he had my attention… and I’m all the better for it. If I could muster up the effort to check-in, DealBurner would send me notifications about deals going on near me, right then and there. Google Now, LivingSocial Instant, ScoutMob, Tenka.. the list goes on.
A minute later I was signed-up, checked-in and, after a short pause (to let me bask in overtaking second-to-last place on my leaderboard, I was texted my first deal… And I was hooked.
Note: Foursquare has deals with Living Social, Gilt City, zozi, BuyWithMe, AT&T, and Groupon, but the Redemption Loop Issue still exists for all of them except for Groupon Now. In other words, you can get all of the regular deals through foursquare, but other than for Groupon Now, deals are not redeemable until after they close at the end of the day – which really makes this whole real-time, location-based thing foursquare does kind of irrelevant, no? Don’t get me wrong, foursquare is still a great distribution platform for daily deal sites, but when it comes to instant deals I would make sure I have DealBurner to get all of them sent straight to me after checking in.
So right after I get to experience DealBurner in action, something else really interesting happened. Apparently my check-in had also sparked an alert from another promising NYC startup - Sonar had just notified me that I might want to reach out to someone else checked-in at WeWork because we have a mutual friend on facebook – someone named Jason F.
Touché foursquare, touché… So now, I think there’s four types of people in this world and you can add me to a new group somewhere in between my original #1 and #2. You still won’t see me feverishly competing for mayorships or the top spot on any of the leaderboards. Nonetheless, there’s definitely enough cool stuff now built on top of the foursquare API to bring me real value – and that means more check-ins… and a new spot for the app on my iPhone home screen.
Actually I should say, bravo foursquare. It’s amazing that they’ve been able to capture such a large user base with so little in tangible incentives. Now that foursquare and the applications that are leveraging their platform are finding ways to deliver real value in the form of financial savings and serendipitous connections, it puts them in position to make some significant leaps. It also means they might be coming to a crossroads.
At the end of the day, for foursquare to truly obtain massive adoption, they need to ensure these types of “real world” value propositions become heavily coupled with the use of their application. The big question is going to be: do they expand into these adjacent markets and start providing these services in-house so they can extract more value? Or, do they stay the course and continue building the platform to enable more of these services at the expense of diluting that value for something more down the road? Or maybe they can walk the fine line somewhere in between? I don’t know what the right answer is, and it’s probably a whole series of posts for another time, but it will definitely be interesting to see how this all plays out.