What is FourSquare?
Foursquare (or 4SQ for short) is part of a new breed of mobile applications loosely called “location based services“…and the location bit is key here.
Foursquare is an application which runs on mobiles phones such as iPhones, Blackberries (as well as less advanced ones) which allows you to “check in” to venues (i.e. shops!) – think airport check ins but much, much simpler!
If you check in often enough then you can become the “mayor” of the venue. But even if you don’t become mayor then Foursquare rewards you with badges for your check ins – e.g. check in to the same place three times in one week and you get the “local” badge - (click here for a list of some common badges).
But what’s the point of collecting badges and being a ‘mayor‘?
If the whole purpose of Foursquare was only about collecting badges or being some sort of virtual mayor then there would be little appeal to me and little long term value; but, if you dig a little deeper, more is revealed!
Many venues are now waking up to the fact that their customers (and their potential customers) are using services such as Foursquare. So much so that some venues are even offering incentives (called “specials“) for their mayors and other customers who check in. For example Domino’s Pizza currently offer their mayors a free pizza and free garlic bread to anyone who checks in (mayor or not).
In the UK these special deals are pretty thin on the ground but, in the US, the situation is much different and more and more UK brands (both big and small) are beginning to see the potential.
What’s in it for the venues?
So, hopefully you can see that the benefit from a user perspective; we get free pizza, or free coffee or whatever the venue has decided to award as a special. But you may be wondering what do they get out of this?
Well, venues on Foursquare get access to a Foursquare business dashboard which shows detailed information about who is checking in to their store and when. This starts to lift the lid on information which the venues just have not had access to before. Venues can know more about their customers and can therefore engage more easily. Basically it’s a gold mine of data!
..But what about privacy?
As of today (the 18th of June 2010) Foursquare et al have not yet really entered into mainstream media. I’m guessing that this’ll change within about 6 months and I’m also guessing that the media will completely misrepresent the situation; saying that it is big brother keeping tabs on you and, if you check in to Starbucks in Newport, this means your house in Pontypool will be robbed!
..I shall say this only once! Foursquare etc have a fine grained level of privacy so you broadcast your location ONLY to the people or networks (Twitter, Facebook etc) you wish – you have total control! You can easily use 4SQ so that NO ONE know’s your location except the venues you check in to. And if you don’t want them to know then don’t check in!
Even if the idea of checking in, mayors etc leaves you cold think about this: Airmiles (or “Green Shield Stamps” if you like an older example) all demonstrate that reward, loyalty and incentive systems work. Foursquare is just one of the many applications which are bringing these systems into the next generation.
…these location based services will be big. Very big! (hint Facebook are working on their own version)