Foursquare has been labelled a social networking revolution and has brought location-based services onto the radar for many online professionals. Unfortunately beyond New York City adoption remains limited and in all but a few business-to-consumer cases, meaningful usage scenarios can seem few and far between according to sceptics.
For a sound reality check, I did a Q & A session with Martin Risgaard Rasmussen, a member of our community for web and intranet professionals. Martin works as intranet webmaster at Swedish-Danish dairy giant Arla. He has used Foursquare for a while and below he shares his interesting perspective on the application, which includes some fresh thinking on how it might impact on intranets.
Why are you using Foursquare at all?
Martin: I started using Foursquare out of curiosity and because I believe that there is a great potential in geo-social networks. I also really enjoy getting in at ground level when it comes to new technology. Of course there's the "big brother" issue, but I think that as long as you keep your wits about you, you should be OK.
Today, I mostly use Foursquare for venue tips. There is also an element of collecting badges, which makes it a bit more game-like, but certainly not as much as GoWalla or SCVNGR which have a much stronger game dimension. Connecting is not something I use Foursquare for. I could imagine that I would "hunt" for Foursquare special venue offers, but since they are not that common in Denmark, at least not yet, I haven't used it for that.
What is the primary value in using Foursquare for you professionally?
Martin: For businesses there is a tremendous potential for creating loyal customers. Obviously there's a WIIFM (What's in it for me) from the users, but if you e.g. own a coffee bar and offer free coffee to the mayor, you can get a race going. Even without a special I have seen several "Mayor-races" happen already.
Secondly, it allows you to work with tips - just remember that you need to have an extreme sense of authenticity and honesty. I like to find good tips, and I can even accept that these come from companies/venues on Foursquare - as long as they make sure that they add value and don't use it solely for traditional marketing messages.
As an employee what do you see as the value for the organization in using Foursquare?
Martin: I guess you can argue that Foursquare would allow companies to make it visible when e.g. sales people who spend time on the road, are in the office. Other than that I only see limited potential for organisations when it comes to "internal" Foursquare usage.
That said, I have a strong belief that location based services will become increasingly important to organsations. Today many already have personalised intranets based on your location. This is done through Active Directory groups or similar, but in a world where GPS is sneaking in everywhere it's not science fiction to think that one day you will have personalised access based on your GPS coordinates rather than which location AD group the IT Department thinks you belong to. Obviously that's not just around the corner, but we are getting there.
What do you see as the main challenges for Foursquare to become more useful for you?
Martin: Critical mass. With multiple competing platforms (Facebook Places, SCVNGR, GoWalla, Path, etc.) appearing, I think the big question is which one will gain the most traction. Foursquare is off to a good start, but it is a social service and without critical mass it will struggle.
A second challenge is the quality of data which again has an impact on the first challenge. People create everything on Foursquare which sometimes makes it hard to find the right place to check in. I don't care if someone thinks it's great to be mayor of the second lamp post on Elm street - I only want to check in to proper places and at the moment Foursquare does not seem to follow up on duplicates or outright spam.
How has your usage pattern changed over time?
Martin: At first I checked in everywhere - created venues everywhere - found friends - collected mayorships - collected badges. Now I have reached a level where all this is tapering off and now I use it for 3 main purposes
1) Getting nearby venue tips from others when visiting other cities
2) Defending/chasing selected mayorships
3) Checking if there are any friends nearby
...and much to my own surprise I have started chasing badges. In the beginning I thought of them as useless, but now the hunt is on
Do you expect to still use Foursquare in 12 months time or do you think you will be using another location-based service, eg. Facebook Places?
Martin: I am confident that I will be using Foursquare. After playing with Facebook Places on a recent trip to Berlin, I think that they are lacking a lot of the features that I know from Foursquare. That said, if Facebook makes a serious move and beefs up Places, it is likely that I make the move, since that's where my friends are, but that's hard to say at the moment.
Visit About Foursquare, which is a very helpful site to learn more about Foursquare or browse relevant Wikipedia pages:
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