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Foursquare? For sure? For now…..



An interesting exchange with the delightful Abi Signorelli yesterday started to help me crystallise my views of Foursquare.  If you’ve been a participant on Twitter you’ll know that increasingly you see tweets declaring that people are the “mayors” of anything from the local chippy to their crusty old underpants.  You’ll also see a gazillion, “I’m at the Testicle Tattooing Parlour”.  And increasingly you’ll see tweets containing hashtags such as #foursquarecansuckit.

It was in response to one of these tweets that Abi challenged me to define the difference between tweeting where you were and “4squaring” where you were. (Pause for thought: that last sentence shows how much the world has changed….). Anyway, my argument is this.  If you walk through any high street pretty much anywhere on a Saturday afternoon, you’ll see wrapping and packaging from McDonald’s.  This is trash, blowing in the street, landing in flower beds, attaching itself around the ankles of passers-by.  This has an impact on the brand and reputation of McDonald’s.

Now the counter argument to this is to state that this was never the intention of McDonald’s and that this is the fault of the consumer/user.  In the same way that all of the inane messages that come out of Foursquare users are a result of people not using it properly.  Extend this to its extreme and you get the argument of the gun lobby…..its not guns per se that are bad, it’s the people who use them to shoot up unsuspecting kiddies in schools. Now I’m not suggesting that Foursquare will kill you, although Louise Triance may have something to say after her stalker uncovered her in The Guardian last week, but the extension of the argument is intellectually the same. And I don’t believe you can separate usage from intent.

Another parallel is the dreaded Farmville on Facebook.  If you have ever been on Facebook for more than 20 seconds, then I’m sure you’ve been accosted by requests for purple pigs, or fences, or some other such tomfoolery.  Farmville became cool and was topping off at somewhere near 80 million active monthly users.  Then it became uncool. Why? Because people were fed up of constantly being harassed by those that were using it, they were fed up of the constant messages, they were fed up of being told about something they didn’t participate in and didn’t want to participate in.  The only difference was that on Facebook you could hide anything relating to Farmville. With Foursquare there is nowhere to hide.

I know a lot of people will tell me this is early adopter territory (there are only c.2m users), but I’m not convinced.  I chose McDonald’s as a comparator for a reason, the golden arches.  There is a lot of dross on Twitter, a lot of motivational gurus and self promoting dickheads.  But only one always comes branded and from numerous sources.  The “litter” may be unintentional, but it is real.  And I can’t help thinking this is damaging the Foursquare brand for millions of us.  Whether that is irreversible, I really don’t know.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. 07/29/2010 09:33

    Highly amusing post (as always), but I think that you are attributing the blame too heavily on Foursquare as a platform that on its users.

    True, it can get rather tedious when people you follow check into a different shop every 5 minutes, but users have settings that allow them to CHOOSE whether to post to Twitter or not.

    So, the metaphorical ‘wrappers’ you see flying around are due to inconsiderate Foursquare users as opposed to Foursquare itself. To further your analogy – I’m quite happy to indulge in the odd burger – but I ensure that my wrapper gets put in the bin, so it doesn’t fly off and annoy some old bugger… 😉

  2. 07/29/2010 14:26

    See…this is what I love about the Social Web, you find people, tweets, places, blogs that you would never have stumbleupon (see what i did there) even 2 years ago…

    it was a good read, but i feel that Abi got it spot on, and you didnt answer the question – “What is the difference between checking in and tweeting your whereabouts?”

    You went on to say your argument, but that never really answered the question.

    My thoughts are that there is no difference, it is simply another means to do so. The role of Foursquare is still to be decided, but for me, it offers a “web2.0” spin on the loyalty card – rewarding customer behaviour – but allowing them to do so while broadcasting your Brand…

    If you do not have a loyalty card in your wallet, then I can understand why you may not appreciate the potential of Foursquare, but plenty of Marketing departments will, and I think it will be huge!

  3. Abi permalink
    07/29/2010 16:13

    Thanks for the mention and it’s great to see you blogging about this @TheHRD as I know you’ve been slating 4sq for a while now. I’d agree with James’ comment – I’m not sure you’ve really answered my original question.

    I get a bit frustrated with people slating 4sq for inane updates – I strongly believe it’s due to many (not all) users who aren’t (yet) using it properly. It’s a bit like how people used to (and many still do) slate twitter for only being about inane updates about what people had for breakfast. And, I’m sure there are many LinkedIn or Facebook only users getting irritated by people’s tweets posting on to their walls or status – again, all about the users setting their preferences properly.

    Foursquare – and many other location based apps – has huge potential. As James says, the role hasn’t quite been decided yet – but isn’t that how most other social apps got started. Facebook was set up for students, twitter started with the simple question “what are you doing?” – now look at how they’re used.

    They’ve evolved and been built upon through a combination of user experience and innovative ideas – no one is dictating how they should be used. So, surely you’ll support the early days in developing what, when you think about it, is an extremely powerful idea and piece of technology??

  4. 07/29/2010 16:58

    @James Hunt @Abi – Sorry guys, I thought the difference was implicit, but clearly not. Twitter is a free form application allowing any message in 140 characters whereas 4square is not, it is part of a “game” for want of a better word. Therefore there is a formulaic element to it, regardless of the creativity of the individual. People can choose to tweet inane tweets for sure, but they at least need to make them up themselves!

    My point is that regardless of the intent, the inane usage of it is likely to damage the brand as non users have no choice whether to receive the updates or not and most users (in my experience) are sending the same old messages. Given the content of my twitter stream, you would think there were a hell of a lot more users than 2m which means there are some prolific (and annoying) 4squarers.

  5. 08/02/2010 20:22

    @Everyone Oh well…I give up….. You win…..I’m at…………hell……

  6. Callum permalink
    07/14/2011 12:06

    I’m a regular user of foursquare, I don’t often check in to places,however it does have some great recommendations and reviews on it. I often use the Time Out page, it not only recommends places, it also has a link to their deals page. it’s great, I’d definitely recommend having a look.


  1. Tweets that mention Foursquare? For sure? For now….. « My Hell is Other People --
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