Why Foursquare Will Trump Twitter

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.

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  1. It is always sold as a convenience at first. Then later do you find out you lost more than you gained with it. Many of these sites receive funding from places like In Q Tel and various other front companies in the intelligence business looking for ways to scrap data or mine for location/intelligence data. Its an easy way at first for you to buy into being tracked wherever you are because you think it is somehow cool to use such tools. For them all they need to do is build a great db of as many people as they can, then soon enough you find that everyone knows where you are at any given moment, on top of what you are doing right now, when you woke up, what you had for breakfast, and what you will have for dinner. Eventually after mining that data for a few months the powers that be have a huge profile on you and know most of everything there is to know about you. While most would say this is OK right now, later you will find yourself losing key points of your own identity, and sooner or later you can/will be used in a variety of ways by those intelligence agencies or anyone else for that matter that are looking for an identity to use for some assassination plot or worse. Of course it wasn't you, but then again at what point will you have a given alibi for it since they know exactly where you were at any given point and can manipulate that data to their will.Think about it..http://www.thecoldspy.com

  2. johnakerson says:

    There is a continnuum:Twitter= What are you doingFoursquare = Where are youThere are other killer apps that could be built. They would answer other questions like:"what are you spending on""what do you want""What do you hate" (which may already be encompassed by Yelp)It is a shame that Microsoft didn't build "Where do you want to go" when they used that as their slogan.-J

  3. @Vinny Thanks for the comment, Vinny. And I hear you regarding privacy concerns, however people said the same thing about Twitter re: it being annoying. Unlike Twitter, Foursquare is intuitive. And unlike reading endless mind-numbing tweets or giving away your location, you can turn off broadcasting your location to Facebook, Twitter, and even your Foursquare friends so no need to sweat the late night Columbo knock at your door. I agree that it's annoying to a certain extent but after I turned off notifications on my iPhone it's much more fun – which one can't say about Twitter's lame hashtag memes et al.

  4. Vinny O'Hare says:

    I don't see 4square becoming anything than what it is right now and that is annoying. If you are following anyone on twitter that uses 4square you want to unfollow them when they check in every 30 minutes. Do I really need someone to know where I am at all. If I did I could just tweet out my location. Having a database follow me id absurd, what if a crime was committed in or at the address I just checked in from? Will they share that with the police? I could end up as a witness to something I knew nothing about. I could go on and on but I think I will save it for a blog post. 🙂

  5. @addodd I would agree however Twitter's not built for business. Between Facebook's status updates and Foursquare's usefulness and adoption by a younger audience I don't see how Twitter will continue to sustain growth, especially with a lack of a viable business model.@Don Maybe AOL will acquire Twitter in an effort to produce the biggest has-been site of all time. 😛 In all seriousness, Facebook has status updates and a boatload more users, and all Google has to do is turn on a microblogging feature and it's lights out for Twitter.

  6. Don Martelli says:

    Good post @dbinkowski. I don't think 4SQ will trump Twitter, but rather one of them will buy the other. Then Facebook will buy the new entity. Then google will buy facebook. lol.

  7. addodd says:

    maybe the question is "where are you spending your time (and money)".

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