I have worked in IT (Mainframes, not PC or Internet) for over 20 years and several buzz words have come up in hardware (servers, blades, etc) and software (OO, SOA, Cloud, etc). One of the most interesting for me is LBS (Location Based Services), which has Foursquare as a good example.
Foursquare is an application that you can use in 2 ways:
- Using your smartphone (Blackberry, Iphone, Android, etc);
- Using the internet
Most people that I know, use it on the phone, where the app uses the phone’s GPS feature to tell you about venues near you. That can be any place: a bar, a school, a mall, a park, etc.
A growing number of people use the website where you just enter the address which you want to check-ins. This is done without any GPS verification that you are really in there.
By doing check-ins, you can earn mayorship (when you are the person with most check-ins in that venue) and badges (When you visit a gym 10x, 20 different pizza places, etc). You can also leave tips about such venues (Like “Nice chili on Thursdays”) and review these tips before you
visit the venue. Because of these mayorships and badges, business owners can offer specials like free appetizer for the mayor or a discount for a given badge. This might have started as a game and people felt good about their mayor status and badges. Like any game, Foursquare has rules and those that cheat on it, are called jumpers. They are the people that became very competitive and found out that they could use the website app right at their couch, check-in all over the world and earn mayorships/badges. There is where I have a problem…
I understand using the web app when you don’t have your phone with you or maybe you have a bad connection (It happened to me in NY using ATT), but abusing it, is really unfair for business, users and Foursquare.
Foursquare is a company looking to make money and businesses are trying to attract new customers and keep the old ones by offering the specials. That can only be good for a business if a person actually visits the venue, why? Can you do the following using the website without being physically at the venue?
- Tell how good the seafood restaurant in downtown is?
- Tell how nice the nurse at the local hospital is?
- Describe how comfortable the movie theater in the mall is?
Nope, these are kind of feedback that you can only have by visiting the venue in person and experiencing it! Besides, these business are paying Foursquare some money to have their unique badges and also rely on the data (check-ins, tips, etc) created by users, to determine their strategies (New services, new branches, etc). The business model for Foursquare has changed from a game to a social media and with the increased number of business partnering with them, they the business will be looking for their ROI and questioning if things don’t add up. How?
For example: American Express just signed a major deal with Foursquare, in hopes to attract that younger (30 and below) crowd. They will pay nothing to Foursquare (at least in the beginning) and run specials like spend $5 save $5 in Austin. Assuming that they expect 2000 check-ins, what happens if half of those are from jumpers? How accurate can be the numbers provided by Foursquare vs the projected revenue? No matter how you see it or call it, data mining, data aggregation, data analytics, etc, market data always is more important than product/service data and this is the kind of data that businesses need to make important decisions and that Foursquare needs in order to offer better services. With the new version 3.0, they are combining their gigantic database of information with new algorithms to suggest you “places” based on where you are, where you have been, what you have liked, what your friends have liked, etc, almost in a predictive check-in. This greatly improves the value/experince of the service for users in the same way that paves the way for more business to get involved and use Foursquare as the de facto loyalty program. With so much data, businesses and users involved, can you really call it just a game?!? I would call a platform in the making!
Jumpers take away pride from real users, deceive businesses and Foursquare on the real data and prevent both from reaching the ROI that they first predicted based on the check-ins.
I used to say that a badge does not represent who I am, but after a while, I believe that it does, depending on how you “earned” that badge.
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