By Liz Kelley
Foursquare is a social network that was introduced to me when I first started at the agency. It took a while to convince me, but I finally joined and kicked off a close relationship with my phone and the places I visited. Seventy-eight friends, 57 badges and 43 tips later you could say I was a fairly active user.
But after spending a couple of years on Foursquare, I grew bored of it. Why should I keep coming back? After all, it takes time to check in and even longer if you have a bad internet connection, and I just get a silly badge if I visit enough Chinese takeout places. So what?
Because of this bored relationship I developed with the app (no pun intended), I decided to attend “The Future of Location: From Social to Utility” at SXSW and was impressed with what the company is doing to stay relevant with how the digital world is changing. A badge isn’t going to cut it anymore; gamification is a trend that caught on in 2009, but the platform is now doing a lot with data to bring value to its users while still staying true to its original purpose: serving as the location-based expert.
According to CEO Dennis Crowley, recommendations, data and maps are the real value Foursquare provides today. And with 1.5 million new users each month, it has a lot of data to mine. Its 30 million users have created more than 50 million points of interest (POI), and the content is fresh because the users are engaged. When a location closes, the users notify the company; when a new location opens, users want to be the first to check in, so they create it.
The data is fresh, and it’s also becoming more customized to each user. Foursquare is mining its data and providing POI recommendations based on where a user’s friends have visited, tips from locals and where the most check-ins are taking place. The app is also getting smarter. When a user leaves his/her standard location, Foursquare recognizes that and sends recommendations for the new neighborhood, city, country, wherever.
Data from 30 million users + customization + smarts = identifying the best places for each user. Translate: places can very specifically target their best customers or potential best customers and consumers can use the data that they create to their advantage. As Crowley said, Foursquare wants to answer “who are the 50 best customers that haven’t heard of your place yet?” And it is on its way to finding out how its data could better the decisions we make on places we visit.
The SXSWi session didn’t drastically change my outlook on Foursquare, but maybe it’s not just for checking in after all. I don’t know if I’ll revive my relationship with Foursquare quite yet, but I have a newfound appreciation for what the company is doing and how they are looking to be more than just the traditional “check-ins” it’s known for.