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Posts Tagged ‘Location’

Fixing Foursquare

September 23, 2010 2 comments

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Over the summer, my friends and I loved using Foursquare. When we started checking-in, it was so fun to unlock badges and claim mayorships. It was a game that we played against each other. On very rare occasions, we actually received special treatment for being mayors and using the location-based service. It was super fun. But it’s not so fun anymore.

There’s a plateau. If you’re in a city like Madison, Wisconsin, there are only so many rewards you can get and so many things to do. Once you unlock these 10 or so badges, you can’t go any further. Location-based social media needs to evolve past mayorships to fight off Foursquare fatigue.

Go Local

It’ time for Foursquare to become more localized. They’re heading in the right direction with Foursquare for Universities, which was just launched last week. Essentially, Foursquare is selecting ambassadors to create a more personal, local connection with the college towns. This could be used in so many cool ways. It’s already being used for university tours, which helps smartphone clutching freshmen navigate a new campus (kids these days….).

Schools are able to create specialized badges for different campus hot-spots. I bet that students will love this. Anyone from Madison would appreciate getting a “Badger Badge” for attending a certain amount of UW sporting events, for example. Increasing the relevancy of badges for each University would keep college kids (and the adults that hang out on campus) more interested.

Even in the suburbs, there are interesting, badge-worthy things to do. I currently live within biking distance of the Minnesota Zoo, for example….it’s easy enough to make an “In the Wild” badge. The point is this: the more personal and specialized Foursquare feels to the user, the more a person is likely to use it.

Beyond Mayorships

It’s time to look beyond specials for just the mayor. Foursquare 2.0 for the iPhone was released this week, and it emphasizes the “Tips” and “To-Do” sections of the app. On the old interface, the hope was that people would leave friendly tips and comments about the place. Foursquare 2.0 also allows you to find to-do’s on the internet and add them to your Foursquare account as a reminder to go to that place or accomplish that to-do. Here, the possibilities for use are endless.

Businesses can create Tips/To-Dos that entice a patron to do something in exchange for a deal. Think about how word-of-mouth would spread if someone had to do a dance in the middle of a restaurant for a free meal, or you received a free appetizer if you brought in a crowd of 10. It will be cool to read a positive restaurant review online and then be able to “tag” that place, so you know where to go. Or, a business could put the “Add this to Foursquare” button on their website and create quick, mobile coupons. The “Add to Foursquare” button could be a really great tool for businesses to increase new visits and return customers.

Quick ideas

There are a ton of other things Foursquare can do to make sure its service stays fun and relevant to users. Here’s a quick list of ideas I’m stealing from other LBS services that would heighten the Foursquare experience:

  • Like Facebook Places, integrate other information about the venue. Link directly to the place’s webpage, put reviews up, and tie in the venue’s social media, if applicable.
  • Like SCVNGR, integrate “games” and “tasks.” Create scavenger hunts and other fun things to do. Give the user an incentive (even if it is just “fun”) to continue to use the service.
  • Allow users to pin photographs to the places.
  • Continue to partner with businesses, and work with group-buying companies like Groupon.
  • Foursquare is beginning to recommend places to go to. This one is a little touchy because people don’t like being told what to do, but imagine how useful this could be to travelers or people moving to new cities.

So, what does the future look like?

Like I said in a previous post, the possibilities for Foursquare are really endless. What we’re continuing to see in today’s world is a shift to a cross-platform experience; something you do or look at on the internet can be transferred seamlessly to your mobile phone. This is what Foursquare 2.0 is doing with its “Add this to Foursquare” buttons. It will be really cool to see how technology like this continues to grow in the future to create a better experience for consumers.

As location-based social media continues to become more mainstream and the options for which service to use become more numerous, Foursquare is going to have to continue to evolve in order to cater to the users’ needs. Hopefully, Foursquare and other services like it keep listening to what the consumers want so that location-based social media is still fun and relevant. I’ll keep checking-in as long as it remains fun and I get something out of it.

Tired of Foursquare too? How else could they keep it fun?

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Facebook Places: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

August 19, 2010 3 comments

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Realtors have a mantra: Location, location, location. That might as well be 2010’s official slogan, because every social network is getting on the LBS-train. Now, Facebook has entered the ring with its “Facebook Places” application. At the moment, it’s sort of like Foursquare with a few more bells and whistles.

Look, Zuckerberg, I get it. You want to play with the other cool kids in the location arena. It’s new, it’s fun, and it’s eventually going to be lucrative. But I’m not sold on Facebook’s foray into location-based services yet. Here are a few reasons why:

Foursquare was opt-in

I have 356 friends on Facebook. I maybe care where 10% of them are at any given moment. I don’t need to know where that-girl-I-met-once-in-college is eating lunch and I don’t care where anyone from my high-school is partying. They don’t care where I am, either. I joined Foursquare and chose my friends on that platform because I do care where they are. I chose them specifically because their location might interest me. I joined Facebook and friended people for different reasons.

I think Facebook would have been better off if they had created Places as an opt-in service within someone’s existing Facebook profile. In this service, you would have to choose to join Places, and then you would have to invite people  from your existing pool of Facebook friends to accept your “Places Friend Request.” This way, users would have the decision to share their location and they would be able to share their whereabouts with a limited number of people. I imagine Facebook didn’t go this route because they wanted location-based services to become more mainstream; by creating an opt-in service, less people would be interested, and they’d essentially just be creating a Foursquare clone.

Caveat: I’m sure Facebook will allow me to fiddle with the privacy settings of this application so I only see the location of people I choose, but I already did that on Foursquare. It seems a little redundant.

Clutter

Remember when Farmville became popular and everyone’s newsfeed was clogged-up with annoying notifications? Remember how angry everyone was because they didn’t want to see every update about lonely cows and awesome crops? It’ll happen again with Facebook Places, and it won’t be pretty.

Caveat: Again, I’m sure they’ve already thought this through and will allow you to block/hide location updates. Still, I’m haunted by memories of homeless animals and crop-growing updates littering my feed.

Counterpoint

Here’s the sad but realistic news: Facebook Places will probably be a hit. According to Facebook, “there are more than 150 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices.” Obviously, not every mobile user will be checking-in, but the number is pretty astounding when you consider that as of today, Foursquare is approaching 3 million users. If even a tiny fraction of Facebook Mobile users begin to check-in , the number of Places users will surpass Foursquare. Having Facebook Places will open up the world of location-based services to many, many people, which is good in the long-run.

Not only that, but it’ll be much easier for businesses to give out coupons and special deals. Since businesses can link their pages to the Places application, it’ll be a nicer integration than Foursquare can currently offer. You will be able to learn a lot more about the place of business when you use Facebook. This means that for businesses, Facebook Places may be more lucrative than Foursquare.

Our new time capsule?

At last night’s Places introduction, VP of Product Chris Cox channeled Don Draper and made a bigger point about location-based services: It’s not just something cool to do now, it’s a time capsule:

“Cox is really making a higher level argument for Facebook Places and location-based services in general. He’s talking about how Facebook Places will be a collective archive of our memories of what we experienced at a specific location or event, such as Lollapalooza. The company sees it as an evolution of the scrapbook or the photo album — now those stories will get more attention, those stories will be pinned to a physical location.”

As cheesy as it is, I think that’s a pretty cool. Whether we completely understand it or not, everything we put on the internet leaves a mark in time, and eventually they’ll become our society’s cave paintings. Yikes.

Obviously, it’s too early to tell if Facebook Places will be more like Google Wave or, well, Facebook. Right now, I think they have a lot of things to iron-out before I become a gung-ho user. Whether or not Places takes off, having Facebook enter the ring means location-based services have hit the mainstream public, which is think is a great thing for transparency, technology, and innovation.

What do you think? Are you going to join Facebook Places?

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