Time magazine not too long ago rated Foursquare as among The 50 Worst Inventions (along with Crocs, DDT and subprime mortgages). When I talk to friends about the social web tools I use regularly, Foursquare is the one that comes in for the most derision (although the same happened two years ago when I started to use Twitter).
I've given it a few months. I have a variety of badges and am now mayor of the Starbucks in the Longo's Food Market, of my favorite Toronto restaurant Pangaea, a Chapters bookstore, my whole office building in Toronto, and my home office. I just started following Mashable on foursquare. And it is fun knowing what connections or business associates are up to you.
But so far the "rewards" have been non-existent, although according to Mashable we will be able to start wearing Foursquare gear and apparently Foursquare will be coming out with badge rewards. There is the guilty and somewhat narcissistic pleasure of being 'mayor' of somewhere. But no specials have been offered. No frequent-visitor "miles" from Starbucks. Only two friends have used the tips feature (thanks Ed Lee and Collin Douma). And I have annoyed many with frequent updates of my location by connecting Foursquare to Twitter and Facebook, a function I've now disabled.
Still, being a contrarian I think I'll mount a defence, although I'm sure these ideas have been mentioned by others.
There are obvious reasons for retailers and tourism groups and associations to take a close look at geo-tagging services like Foursquare. Site-specific communications for cities and historic/art sites are also a possibility. I think I read somewhere that the Philadelphia tourism bureau has made an arrangement with Foursquare to 'tag' historic sites with background information. When you check-in at a historic monument or attraction, the 'tip' accompanying the tag a short burst of background or a recommendation for another site close by.
Foursquare is also uniquely suited to small, local businesses who serve a broad but regular clientele. Knowing that specific and identifiable customers frequent your restaurant, coffee shop, or clothing store means you can potentially reward their loyalty or recommend other products or services. I could see how companies with large sales staff could use Foursquare as a means of staff checking in.
People give a lot individual reasons for using Foursquare . . . arranging meetups at conferences, picking out local pubs, gathering nearby 'firends' for an impromptu party. Rae Hoffman at Outspoken Media used Foursquare 'tips' to avoid long line-ups at the airport in Orland Florida.
But what about for managing a company or organization's reputation or dealing with an issue? I'm hard-pressed to think of anything more applicable than these two ideas:
- Build some identity capital simply by ensuring your company name appears in the list of 'places' when someone checks in in your vicinity, and add a tip the points out your vision and values.
- Provide contact information for a community manager in your company so that Foursquare users nearby recognize that you value connection
I dont' know where Foursquare is at with respect to building out any of these evident strengths. But we Foursquare users are a patient bunch of folks. While standing by for more substantive applications, I am happy just to wait it out and build my geo-power base.