Five steps to fix Foursquare

It’s been about a year since I wrote anything significant about Foursquare so I thought it was time to check-in.

Check-in. Get it? Oh, never mind.

In my article, Foursquare or Bore-square, I concluded that the major hurdle to adoption of this technology is that there just isn’t anything there to hold my attention, entertain me, or reward me.  The primary attraction of fake electronic mayorships will appeal to a small audience indeed.  A year later, I am puzzled to report they still have the same problem.

The good news is that in the past year they have significantly enhanced their interface, added some modest new features, and raised enough capital to stay in business and dominate the buzz.

The bad news is, I still really have no new reasons to use it. The reviews and tips are nice, but there are other apps like Urban Spoon that do a better job and are more fun to use. I did find a friend at a restaurant through Foursquare once and he bought me a beer, so that’s worth something I guess.

Foursquare seems determined to stary boring. They just announced that a new infusion of capital would be used to expand overseas. Cool.  Now we can be bored in several new languages.  And this week’s big announcement:  People will be able to create their own pages to leave tips for friends. ZZZzzzz.

I understand the need to move quickly and dominate the niche but it seems they are ignoring some very fundamental improvements they could make to really drive organic growth. Until Foursquare adds some sizzle that will appeal to people beyond the Geek Squad, it will remain a minor player in the social media world.  Here are five ideas to make it more interesting:

1) Put your people on the ground.  Forget about spending your money in Europe. Use the money to get sales people in major cities to work with restaurants and retail to offer more opportunities for engagement and deals. I am a consistent user of Foursquare wherever I travel and have never been offered one attractive offer.  That’s just pitiful.  Foursquare needs to learn from Groupon and put people in cities to make something happen for their users.

2) Add some fun. The leaderboard thing is lame. Foursquare has all the elements of a fun and competitive environment but who cares about the results when there are no prizes?  I mean they don’t even have FAKE prizes like “Hey, you just reached an all-time high. You’ve unlocked the too much time on your hands badge.”  When I have an “achievement,” I want to see one of the Angry Birds dancing  on the screen or Conan O’Brien revealing a surprise.  Maybe do movie tie-ins.  Partner with SCVNGR so we can unlock secrets created by Foursquare users (geo-caching?).  Why not have competitions to crown a city champion? Why not have playoffs among friends?  Bring it on.

3) Put people who game the system in a penalty box.  I check-in pretty frequently at a local restaurant but never seemed to be close to becoming mayor. Found out it was a guy who works there. Well, that just ruins the whole point. That is not building loyalty. That is not rewarding customers.  Now I know it is POSSIBLE that somebody is actually visiting every day, so create new categories like super-mayor and vice mayors and governors so you can push people who are possibly gaming the system aside to allow real money-spending customers to be engaged and rewarded.

4) Involve the establishments.  I have never had any establishment manager acknowledge I was in the house.  You know, that might even be better than a prize.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a manager come up to you and say, “Mr. Schaefer, I saw you checked-in on Foursquare and I just wanted to thank you for visiting us today.” This is not happening. Why not?  If the locations are not getting value out of the system the model is busted.

5) Make it more social. Foursquare is still so obscure that I really don’t have a lot of friends around when I go to a restaurant. Or, maybe I just don’t have many friends period … in any event, on the rare occasion somebody enters the restaurant when I am there, it would be fun to have an alert.  Why can’t we mark our very special friends so we can get very special alerts when they are nearby?  And egads … what would happen if we were actually rewarded with free food and goodies for bringing a lot of our friends together and all checking in?  Restaurants and pubs are sponsoring tweet-ups but why aren’t … ummm … Four-ups (?) … catching on?

OK Foursquare. Based on my current consulting rate, that is about 23 cents of advice. Which is 23 cents more value than what you have given to me, by the way. Other than the beer of course. That was cool.

So now it’s up to them … and you, of course. What would you do if you were the Mayor of Foursquare?

All posts

The Marketing Companion Podcast

Why not tune into the world’s most entertaining marketing podcast!

View details

Let's plot a strategy together

Want to solve big marketing problems for a little bit of money? Sign up for an hour of Mark’s time and put your business on the fast-track.

View details

Share via