Is Foursquare social?


For those of you living under a VERY large rock; Foursquare is a game that allows users to check-in to physical locations,with their mobile device to earn points and attain badges. There are of course, other things that you can do with Foursquare. As a user, you can add a tip or “shout” it out. Except for competing against your peers, to earn points/badges, Foursquare isn’t currently social in the traditional sense. (I laughed at the thought that social media now has a standard in my mind, but it does!)

Social media by definition is not broadcast. (That’s right. It’s not PR and never has been.) It’s a conversation. Foursquare isn’t currently focused on conversation. It’s about competition, with broadcast as it’s defining characteristic. Yes, Foursquare has focused on making the system more predictive so that they can offer you things of value, but guess what? It doesn’t matter what Foursquare does. It only matters what their users do.

But what about sharing? That’s social and people can do it on Foursquare! Yeah but, it’s still more broadcast and does not encourage real time interaction. (Think Twitter.)

Tools like Localmind and Chatsquare are trying to get the check-in to be more social but we’re just not there yet. With Foursquare currently at 8 million users, there simply aren’t enough people participating and Foursquare is going to need more hooks to enable their service to be more social. The easiest way to do that would be to make the competition the social object and then encourage those who are competing against one another, to banter and/or essentially talk smack. Some of the tactical methods could be:

  • The system alerts you when someone is a day away from stealing our mayorship and then offers you the ability to follow them an/or ping them.
  • Notifications of where you stand in the overall points race for the week and the ability to ping anyone ahead of you, telling them you’re coming!
  • Find out who’s the mayor of your favorite place and plan out how your going to oust them. And yes, give the potential ouster to ability to taunt the mayor.
  • When you oust someone, the system should allow you to send a customized message to the person you just removed.
  • Find out who has the best deals for mayorship or frequent visitation and then encourage the user to check-in by sending them alerts when they’re close to the venue.
  • When someone who’s close to stealing your mayorship checks-in to that location the system should alert you and open a chat window or Facetime session so that you can introduce yourself to your competitor.

These methods increase the competition and enable social interaction to be built. I think this would make Foursquare much stickier. Many thought leaders have visions of businesses offering services, etc. I agree with them in the long run but I believe that Foursquare needs to be a social business before they move in that direction. Currently they just aren’t social.


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I'm currently the Academic Director of the Denver MBA at the Daniels College of Business. I manage the student experience and enjoy helping our students acquire the leadership skills they need for the next phase of their professional journey.

I'm also an Associate Teaching Professor of Digital Marketing at the Daniels College of Business, University of Denver. Since 2010, I've developed the 2nd most collegiate-level, digital marketing courses in the United States. I teach across a wide array of programs including Executive MBA, MBA@Denver, MS Marketing and Entrepreneurship.

I'm professionally passionate about digital culture, artificial intelligence and cognitive neuroscience. I'm married to an amazing woman and have two incredible children. I was raised in Colorado and spend my free time with family, cycling, snowboarding and going to the Pacific Ocean to SCUBA dive + surf.