Why I use Foursquare
It's been a long time since my last post. I didn't realize how difficult blogging was. Sure I thought that I might have difficulty generating content, but my problem is actually that I have been writing too much. Currently, I have several drafts waiting to be published. However, each is well over 1000 words, and covers way too many topics. This post started out talking about Foursquare, but ended up on a diatribe about gamification and Codeacademy. I was able to split it up into multiple (pending) posts. Below is a more focused opinion of Foursquare. Enjoy.
Honestly, I never thought I would be a Foursquare user. When I first installed it, I couldn't really see myself using it. I didn't see the draw of checking in everywhere, and to be frank, I thought it was childish and dumb. I finally got pulled in by a friend who used it incessantly. He would check in anywhere and everywhere to gain as many points as possible. Cynically, I started to check in just to see if I could beat him at his own game. I eventually forgot about this little competition and began using it for completely different purposes.
I think the main reason I use Foursquare is to display some brand loyalty. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am fiercely fanatic about my sports teams. I love them, and I want everyone to know that I love them. I'm proud of them. The same goes for my favorite TV shows and movies. I want people to know that I have such great taste. This extends to brands and businesses too. Think of fanboyism, just not so extreme or negative. I like businesses that I frequent, and I want everyone to know. I want to give them more business because I like them and want them to do well, but I also want to prove that I know my stuff and have good discretion. Basically, I'm trying to signal something along the lines of 'hey, I have good taste, I like these places, you should try them so you can like them too.' I'm sure part of the signal is that I think I'm cool by visiting (what I deem to be) cool places. For the more frequent stops, it's the former assertion, I am declaring myself a regular and happy to do so. For the others, I'm still in my sophomoric frame of mind; I want you guys to know that I have an active social life and know how to enjoy my nights and weekends.
Foursquare is more than just a tool to facilitate my social status though. It is also a great tool to remind of my favorite places. Perhaps there's a great burger joint that I like, but haven't been to in a while. When I open up Foursquare, It's now been brought to my attention, and I can make the decision to go soon and reconnect with an old flame. Foursquare may be about sharing with others, but it is a great platform for businesses to create loyal customers and push word-of-mouth advertising. This advertising can be outward to others in your network, or, as in my example, it can also be about advertising to yourself. And it works.
This brings me to Groupon. I think any business that considers Groupon promotions should also consider being more active on Foursquare. I really like Groupon and I think it's a great service. But from a customer-business relationship perspective, I don't see it as being the best option. Groupon does a great job of giving lesser known places a chance to win some new customers. This is great, for once in a while promotions to jump start things. But I think it does a better job of encouraging a mentality of "I only go to places when I can get a discount." Unfortunately, Groupon creates an opportunist, rather than a loyal customer. This is not something that helps to build brand loyalty.
I'm sure there are exceptions, but consider the case of a Foursquare mayor. He obviously has been there quite often, and is proud of this achievement. He is highly likely to promote and advocate on your behalf. This is free marketing, and it is of the highest quality. He tweets about being the mayor and about how everyone should go there - this happens every time he checks in. It also happens every time any other user checks in. Contrast this with a Groupon tweet. "I got this awesome deal at ___, get in on the action." This is great, but it only happens once per person. Granted it could be a whole lot of people, but if someone reads the tweet late, they see they missed out on the deal and have lost the incentive to go. Even if a Foursquare tweet is read late, the meaning of the tweet does not change, and it still holds most of its effect. (To be clear, I'm not trying to paint Groupon in a negative light. Rather, I'm trying to demonstrate the possibilities of Foursquare. I think any small business should incorporate both into their marketing strategy.)
Now brand loyalty is not the end all be all of customer development, but it's pretty darn important. It can make or break small businesses, including start-ups. A TechCrunch writeup can bring a huge amount of hits and new customers to you. But it will be useless, and could possible backfire if you don't have loyal customers willing to confirm the positive article in the comments. This is where a good user experience is so important. A good UX (whether that experience is on a smartphone or in real life) is a huge component of brand loyalty. As a means to keep this article somewhat focused, my UX critique of Foursquare will be in a separate post.
So Foursquare helps businesses create loyal customers. And it helps customers promote their favorite businesses. For me, Foursquare also acts as an activity log. I always check in when I go to the gym. This may seem tacky, but I fully embrace it. Foursquare helps me log how often I go. I can take pride in the fact that I've currently worked out for 10 straight weeks (holla at me!). Sure I want everyone to know how fit I am, but I'm actually more focused on the fact that it would be a huge letdown if I couldn't keep the streak going. Foursquare provides a little motivation boost to help keep me going. This motivation comes from within, but Foursquare acts as a mirror.
So this is a glowing review of a product that I initially thought was stupid and thought I would never use. Strange, huh? Just goes to show you that if you have a solid product, users will find ways to create value from it, as long as you give them the chance.