I started using Twitter because I was curious to see what it was all about. With Twitter, it took a few months to realize how it could be useful to me, so I expected to have to use some patience with Foursquare. Like Twitter, it was easy to sign up and in the early stages it felt a bit ‘game-like’ – who else do I know who uses it? How do I find followers? With Twitter, it wasn’t that long before I recognized its value and could bore my friends, colleagues and students at Notre Dame with reasons why they should join. Today I am proud to say even my husband tweets.
I signed up for Foursquare earlier this year out of the same sense of curiousity that led me to Twitter. However, I am still baffled as to why I should continue or draft others to start.
To date, I have over 60 Foursquare check-ins, 8 badges and one lame mayorship (my apartment building). I am pretty good about remembering to check in when I am at a conference, travelling or spending a day out and about. But I will admit that I often fail to check in at the places I go regularly (like home, the fitness club, Trader Joe’s). I keep thinking if I just stay with it, all will be revealed. But I am about ready to give up. Here’s why:
1. My network lacks critical mass
I have 255 ‘friends’ but I don’t really care where they are, unless they are somewhere near me. Most of them are not the people I really care about anyway and many are total strangers. It’s a little more exciting when I am at a conference like Ad:Tech because I can find the handful of Foursquare users, but what do I have in common with them other than Foursquare? I connect anyway, but much prefer the connections I make at conferences via Twitter.
2. I never get offers
Despite checking in numerous restaurants and stores, I have yet to receive an offer, even from restaurants and stores I have checked into repeatedly. I was at Lucky Store in Oakbrook Terrace Monday night buying jeans. Foursquare indicated that store has over 1000 members. You would think Lucky would make some acknowlegement of that fact? After all, according to Paco Underhill’s book, half of all retail store visitors don’t make a purchase. Perhaps the absence of an offer makes sense though: retailers have many ways to make me an offer once I’m in the store that don’t require a GPS signal. But why don’t t retailers nearbyshoot me some kind of alert? After all Oakbrook Terrace is a very big mall.
3. Checking in is work
Even though I have the app on my phone, I have to remember to check in. It’s another step – why can’t it check me in automatically? If the place I am visiting isn’t already on Foursquare, it’s tedious to enter it. If it is on the list, I have to scroll through and find it. This isn’t my first priority on entering a restaurant and is mildly irritating to my family. There goes mom again…. Apparently I am not the only one who forgets. According to Forrester, of the 4% of U.S. adults who have used a location based service like Foursquare or Gowalla, only 1% check in more than once a week.
4. There are no psychic rewards
Foursquare makes me feel boring. I didn’t realize how little I actually go out and about until I used Foursquare. Really, a night with 4 check in’s is probably beyond me, unless I am travelling. The solution is that I probably should do more. Twitter on the other hand has the opposite effect. Each RT and @ reply makes me feel more interesting.
Location-Based Marketing Is Still in Early Stages
I continue to believe in the power of location-based marketing, but I tend to agree with Forrester that it’s too early for marketers to make a big move onto Foursquare. Of the 2 million users, over 80% are male, 70% of whom are age 19-35, and college educated. While it’s true that these men tend to be highly influential, that target concentration makes ‘FourSquare’ more like ‘ForMales’ – an attractive niche audience. As a Boomer woman this could explain in part why I feel rather left out.
Another reason for caution is that there have been some missteps on Foursquare, even by marketers the likes of Starbucks that should know better, as David Teicher (aka @aerocles) points out in his Ad Age Blog this week. Apparently, Starbucks ended a Foursquare loyalty promotion without letting barristas know how to let participants redeem their offers.
Nevertheless, location-based marketing holds a great deal of promise if these early obstacles can be overcome, as Sara Hoftstetter points out in her Ad Age blog post yesterday (“Four Reasons Brands Must Check In To Foursquare. Now“) Regardless of whether it’s Foursquare or another, yet to be invented service, retail locations are still the last mile for marketers trying to connect with prospects. Any service that promises to bridge the gap will get marketers’ attention.
I just wish there was something that required less work on my part relative to reward. Meanwhile, I think I’ll wait and check in again in a year.