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.