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Remember when location based social networks were the new sexy thing on the web? It seems like such a short while ago that the first mayor of every major international Starbucks chain walked off all caffeinated up with their Barista badges and US$1 off a ‘however-you-want-it’ Frappuccino blended beverage. Then came the inevitable power struggle as users ousted each other by checking in to their favorite diner/takeout/restaurant or seedy massage parlours , all coveting the inglorious mayoral title.
This phase then gave way to the annoyance – the endless hubris of the bothersome ‘I’m at’ post or tweet and the need to announce your entrance publicly over every social stream in a way that would make even a Hilton Heiress twitch. It bordered on the narcissistic, and became a degradation on the moral fiber of our social media ‘do-goodyness’. But boy, was it fun. Pure self-indulgent fun.
Now, the initial hype has quietened down and the status of Foursquare remains unquestionably accurate: Locations based software have earned their spot in the social network market and are here to stay.
Here then are five reasons why you should be using Foursquare followed by five more reasons why you shouldn’t.
Why you should use Foursquare:
- Promotional opportunities
From the larger business franchises and retailers to the smallest street hotdog vendor, foursquare is a fantastic tool for attracting customers to your product/ brand. The key is to over-exploit the one rather obvious point: Users will have to visit your business in order to earn loyalties and this is where you easily strike gold. “Be consistent and proactive” says Social Media Pathways‘ Carl Gerber.
- Freebies and loyalties
Who wouldn’t want a cup of your favorite coffee blend for a reduced price or, better still, completely free? Or a free weekly sub-sandwich, on becoming mayor of a franchise, valid for a full year? Everyone loves getting free things and if you can get them from your frequent haunts and food venues then all the better. There are deals and freebies to be had and Foursquare provides the tools for finding them and notifying you, if necessary.
- Benefit from ‘Tips’
- Backtrack your cash and time
- Play the game
Besides being about ‘who’s where right now and how often’, Foursquare also allows users to add tips to the locations they visit – much like a comments section for reviews. With this, you can easily read up on what other users have said about a place, whether it’s worth considering or even recommend it to your friends. You may be wondering if that Thai restaurant on the corner has any discounts or should you dare try that extra hot curry dish from the corner curry den? Foursquare can provide the answers. In other words, it’s kind of like having the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but with feedback (and knowing where the Vogans are reciting their charming poetry).
Impulse buying is rather hard to keep track of and you may find yourself pouring over old invoices and receipts, trying to make sense of a puzzling spreadsheet or mulling over your piggy bank’s sudden lack of a jingle – in the hope that you can piece together some form of pattern as to where you blew your cash after one too many burritos. Or, did you visit your sick gran in the hospital on the 3rd or was it on the 4th? Or the 5th? Foursquare provides a rather useful system for backtracking all your visits, money spent or connections. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t visit your gran if there’s no chance of you being crowned mayor.
Foursquare is loads of fun. The strategy involves straightforward, simple operations: go places, check in, check out, earn badges and hopefully get free stuff or discounts. But the underlying game mechanics sets it aside from any other social network in that it requires you to be physically present at a location. Yes, you actually have to get off the couch to play. Which is, as any sane fitness and health specialist would implore, a very good thing.
Why you shouldn’t use Foursquare:
- Plug in to Twitter and Facebook
- Potential danger
- Costs involved
- Bad location
- Business with no physical location
There is nothing more annoying than having to be constantly reminded of where and when my Twitter followers have checked in to a location, and thereby spamming my Twitter stream with an unapproved gleeful “I’m at…” announcement, much like a loud politician who demands applause after his weak punchline failed to materialise.
There’s also the obvious danger in exposing your little white lies. Like the overeager fanboy who skipped work to attend the cricket match but forgot to remove his auto-post feature and then had to spend the better half of the next day explaining to his boss why cricket is an old Indian remedy for an inflamed throat. So, if you’re the user that constantly needs to make your presence known then, for the sake of all our sanity, don’t use Foursquare. (As for the cricket white-lie, that was me by the way.)
Okay, so the majority of burglars and thieves are not currently using Foursquare but assuredly, once they do, you may want to think twice before announcing your location to the world at large…or the criminal world at large…or just the criminals at large. Whichever, the fact remains that once you announce your location, you are inadvertently telling everyone that you are absolutely and positively not at home. Which, I suppose, could prove beneficial to burglars. Again, despite the rather humorous satire from pleaserobme.com, most criminals are probably not using foursquare to track your location.
Some critics have also raised concerns around potential stalkers or old exes who know your location and the places you frequent. So, if you’re paranoid, live in a city where the thugs are clued into locations-based software or are a high profile celebrity worthy of being stalked, don’t use Foursquare.
Despite the loyalties, badges, freebies and awesomeness around being in the trendiest locations, you may still need to revisit that coffee house over sixty times before you’re crowned mayor. Besides, you don’t check in to a coffee house and not buy coffee. But, sixty times?? While the business owner may certainly benefit, the everyday user, hellbent on winning the mayoral title, may need to rethink his financial strategy. Let’s face it, titles are not everything. You may also be required to have multiple in-store purchases to score a badge or loyalty which is something to bear in mind, especially if you’re eager to be crowned Mayor of Nachos Mexicana but faint at the site of a single jalapeno pepper.
Randomly checking in to places that are imaginary or have little value or interest to anyone is annoying to Foursquare users who couldn’t give a hoot about your ‘imaginary’ multi-million manor. Also, the database of locations in certain parts of the world is still fragmented and incomplete so that it’s quite common to get duplicate entries of the same location. Unverified locations and inconsistent data all hamper the progress of a complete and accurate representation on Foursquare.
While the workaround could be to get users to register on your site/ blog or virtual profile, the majority of users will still seek out businesses with a physical brick-and-mortar location. It works great for businesses that get foot traffic such as retail, restaurants and hotels while law firms, corporations, doctors offices and consultants may not necessarily benefit from Foursquare and would probably be better off promoting their Facebook business page.