If you scan blogs and read MSM for news you would think Twitter was used by everyone under the sun and Facebook was a close second. the reality is that Facebook just eclipses the 400 million user mark – and unlike Myspace, there aren’t very many dormant accounts inflating that number. Steve Rubel points out the strategy for Facebook, which is something I’ve told clients for a while now – they want to own the internet. Twitter, even with all of the hype and media push, is and will always be a “macro niche” tool. (Look at me! I’m a web 2.0 expert who’s coining new words! Where’s my book deal!? :P)
Yes, the media has fallen for Twitter because it’s their last bastion of hope – little wages or effort are required to tweet live news. Factual, false or flat out made up, while the media can’t afford to do real investigative journalism they can pay for unlimited texting and data plans like the rest of us and RT “breaking news”. And I use that term loosely. If you were ignorant and only believed what you read you’d think Twitter was going to rule the world.
But then there’s a free service that popped up out of nowhere called Foursquare. Ok, maybe not out of nowhere, but is gaining popularity after the founders sold Dodgeball to Google. For those who haven’t heard about Foursquare, it’s a GPS/location based “game” where you “checkin” (or “check in”) at various real-life locations like your local coffee shop, restaurant, workplace or gym. They made visiting places into a contest and award unique badges based on accomplishments, including a “douchebag” badge, which one can earn by checking in at secret locations frequented by “douchebags” (we did say this was an adult-oriented blog, right?).
So why does this service have way more potential than Twitter? For starters, it’s actually somewhat useful to the average person. See, every time you’re on your cell phone and need to find a business your phone’s GPS tells you what other people have entered into Foursquare’s database. And on top of that, you earn points for adding new venues. You can also leave “tips”, which are basically reviews, of the establishment you’ve visited.
Come here often? Then Foursquare rewards you with a title of “Mayor”. You can be the mayor of the local Dunkin’ Donuts, YMCA or even your house, if you so choose to enter it into their system. And that’s when it should hit you that this is way more than just random thoughts about “What you’re doing” – it’s useful information that the users and local businesses can tap into to figure out who’s a frequent visitor and, in theory, spender. If you’ve worked in any sort of retail environment you know this is invaluable information that’s typically been reserved for businesses trading on Wall Street but is now available to you. And unlike Yelp, you can interact with your customers in person and not get extorted for positive reviews.
Finally, Foursquare is location-based, so I can check where my friends are or as a business owner if my best customer – or new customer – is nearby. This is huge because the folks at Foursquare are already serving up local ads which means there’s revenue. Did you hear me? I said there’s already revenue coming in. I’m not talking VC funding or mega deals that “could” be money, I mean that unlike Twitter they’re actually working a viable business model – local ads.
Look for Foursquare’s adoption rate, which has been described as a “hockey stick” already, to continue to go up. As of this post they claim to have over 400,000 people using it, and while my usage has been limited to the New York City area, I’ve noticed that a lot of local shops and stops in New Jersey are already listed. So, it seems as though the question (and game) has been changed from “What are you doing?” to “What are you buying?”.
David Binkowski is a Senior Vice President at MS&L Worldwide and has spent over 10 years providing digital strategy and execution for Fortune 500 clients. David started Shamable and is a co-founder of Every Other Thursday and occasionally blogs on David Binkowski.com. Feel free to reach out to him on Twitter at @dbinkowski or via email at davidbinkowski at gmail dot com.