There was an overwhelming number of users checking in using Foursquare at the South by Southwest Conference (SxSW), held in Austin, Texas recently. The application changed itself up a bit for its second conference appearance, allowing users not only to check in at buildings, but at each event at the conference.
It is mind-boggling to think that the now-famous location-based app launched at the very same conference only a year ago. Geo-location apps like Foursquare and Gowalla took center stage at the event, with Foursquare being the clear winner.
Foursquare founders Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai can thank Apple for their recent success with the application. As desktops become a thing of the 1990s, smartphones and GPS devices are becoming a necessity in the age of Web 2.0. The Apple iPhone broke new ground and paved the way for inventive apps like Foursquare to become as popular as they are.
It was all playground games for Crowley from the start. He first developed a mobile web service called Dodgeball. The idea behind Dodgeball was simple: First, you text your current location to Dodgeball. That information would then be sent to other Dodgeball members in the area. The idea was that you could use it to meet up with old friends and make new ones while out and about.
In 2005, Google purchased Dodgeball and later decided to shut it down. Crowley didn’t let that discourage him and instead worked with Selvadurai to create Foursquare, combining new social elements to make the application stand out above the rest.
Foursquare doesn’t just broadcast your location to your selected friends; it also serves as a game, pairing virtual rewards with real activities.
Users earn badges as they visit different spots. Visit one location enough times and you become the mayor. You can use Foursquare to meet new friends, find out who else is in your area or compete against other people in your city.
“Elizabeth Fisher just checked in at the Algonquin Hotel.” This message is now famous as a supposed shout out to Foursquare, which popularized the phrase “check-in” on the deliciously tech-savvy show, “Gossip Girls.” Even Crowley couldn’t resist and took to Twitter to post, “Check-ins on Gossip Girl?”
As of March 2010, Foursquare has 500,000 users and 1.4 million venues according to Tech Crunch, keeping Gowalla at a solid second place. Why are more people checking out Foursquare, leaving Loopt and Gowalla in the dust? It’s simple.
Foursquare Offers Privacy
Privacy? In a geo-location application? You’re likely thinking “That makes no sense!” Since the very start, social media has received heat for being a violation of privacy. Sites like Facebook have undergone multiple user interface changes in an effort to retain users and promise privacy. Now, with geo-location becoming the next wave in social media, new concerns arise.
Gowalla and Loopt have both promoted the notion of having your location constantly beamed to your friends. Even Google Buzz attempted the same notion and received tons of negative feedback. People love social media and it’s here to stay, but they won’t let it compromise their privacy and security, and Foursquare ensures that. With Foursquare, you can select who you share your location information with.
The Marketing Impact
Foursquare is growing at an exponential rate and has the opportunity to revolutionize social media marketing. They have tapped into something priceless.
Marketers and companies are quickly realizing that it’s effective to know where consumers choose to go and purchase items rather than what they purchase. Foursquare is teaming up with neighborhood restaurants and chains to offer promotions for those who check in to their location with their app.
One such example is their recent partnership with Starbucks. As of March 11, 2010, frequent Starbucks customers who check in at locations using Foursquare will earn customer rewards. If you think this is a straight-up play to offer location-based mobile coupons, think again. The New York Times Bits Blog writes that the company is “hoping to use Foursquare to provide even more meaningful prizes, like invitations to special events, photo-sharing or online reputation scores.”
For businesses, a Foursquare “check-in” has become the equivalent of a new “fan” on a Facebook fan page. But is Foursquare quick enough to compete with the social media giant Facebook? Only time will tell.
In a recent study, it was revealed that more people use Facebook via their smartphones than their PCs. Rumor has it that Facebook is working on a geo-location integration into their Facebook mobile app. If this is the case, then Facebook may just blow Foursquare out of the water.
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