FourSquare: I don’t get it

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I don’t get it. I feel like Josh Baskin listening to a pitch for robots that turn into buildings (skyskrapers). I’ve been using FourSquare for the past few weeks, and I can’t figure out how it improves my life in any way.

The premise of FourSquare (and other location-based services/games like GoWalla) is that you utilize the GPS function on your phone and let the service know when you patronize a business, thus letting your friends know what you’re up to as well. For teenagers on a weekend night, it sounds like a pretty good deal – you can use FourSquare to tell you what’s happening and where your friends are so you don’t miss any action.

But for a late-twenties married male, the appeal just isn’t there. Sure, Monday I let everyone know that I hit 24-Hour Fitness after work, and then swung by Lowe’s for another home improvement project, but who wants to hear about that?

To be useful to 95% of the population, FourSquare needs to change some things, and fast.

  1. Automatically check me in (as long as I give you permission): Let’s face it, I don’t always remember to “check-in” by searching for the business on my phone and hitting the necessary keys. If you do it for me, I’m much more likely to participate.
  2. Give me an incentive for using the site: Why should I check-in at Lowe’s? Well, if I get a 10% discount every 10th visit, I’m much more likely to participate. FourSquare could offer businesses an out-of-the-box loyalty program.
  3. Integrate: Tying into Yelp would allow me plug me into trusted business reviews. Tying into Facebook would allow me to interact with more friends. But as a stand-alone right now, it’s not adding a lot of value for me.

FourSquare has a lot of things going for it. It has an army of 1+ million users who have voluntarily cataloged most businesses and gathering places across America. It is way ahead of competitors.

But, I wonder will, it be able to maintain its current position. Early adopters are already bailing, asking similar questions to me. And I can’t imagine a second wave of users to appear. For Facebook, the 50+ year olds have taken the site by storm. But figuring out how to use (and the value of) a GPS-based phone service? Not likely.

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