Editor’s Note: A special post-counterpost from two of the PRBC bloggers to end 2009 with a bang. For the counterpoint be sure to check out Keith Trivitt’s post.
I’ve recently become obsessed with FourSquare. I can’t seem to stop myself from “checking in” places, and now that they’ve made it easier to add new venues, I’ve become the resident scout for my town in New Jersey. So you can imagine how sad I was when my buddy Keith told me that he’s not a fan of the service. However, I know that he isn’t alone- many people are questioning the point of FourSquare and other location-based applications. I’ve had people say to me on more than one occasion “Why do people care that you get Chipotle for lunch every day?” and I get pretty frustrated trying to explain myself. Well, I’m very sensitive to deja-vu, and I think I’m having a case of it right now.
In my opinion, FourSquare as a service does a fantastic job at tapping into the needs and desires of people in my general age range (I’m using this in a very broad sense here, so 30 and 40 year olds, don’t take offense). For me personally, I consider myself a burgeoning foodie. If I could afford it, I would try a new restaurant for every meal. That being said, hearing about what restaurants my friends and acquaintances are going to on a regular basis excites me. The ability to leave comments on your check-ins only enhances this for me; I’ve been known to give a thumbs up or thumbs down to the places I visit.
I could easily go onto Yelp and find a great Italian place in Midtown Manhattan, but if my friend recommends it then all the better. I think this concept applies in other areas as well. Adults living in cities (notice how FourSquare focuses on cities, where the most action is) love to know where the hot spots are- whether it be a new lounge or a comfortable Irish pub.
FourSquare also (as do a lot of other social media platforms) takes advantage of the voyeuristic tendencies of modern people in order to be successful. However, I would argue that it takes it to the next level. On Facebook and Twitter you have the ability to control the amount of personal or revealing information you give away, therefore restricting the way other people can look into your life. On FourSquare, the premise behind the entire application is giving your precise (address and everything) location away- a voyeur or stalker’s dream, as well as a great tool for people who love to show off. I mean, who WOULDN’T love checking in at Le Cirque? I’m not necessarily saying this is a bad thing- for what it is, a surprising number of people have chosen to participate in it. And one of the coolest things about using it has been checking in somewhere only to discover that someone else I know is there too! (Yes, it’s happened.)
Let’s not forget that FourSquare has managed to turn their whole premise into a game, making it an application that people feel like they HAVE to use to stay up to date. Check-in enough times and you can become the mayor of a particular place or earn a “Bender” or “Crunk” badge for using it a certain amount of days in a row. This is a great tactic for keeping people engaged with the platform.
Anyways, my point is that I can’t exactly agree with Keith’s sentiment that FourSquare and other location based services are completely useless. FourSquare has as social and innovative of a model as Twitter and Facebook do and it provides people with a social aspect of their life that they were previously lacking to a degree. I think they have a really great thing going and the marketing and business uses for the platform aren’t far off- they just need to get there. They’ve definitely set themselves upon the right track by opening up their API and their “FourSquare for Businesses” and I’m personally excited to see where else they go.