Foursquare? Wherefore Art Thou, Foursquare?

by Stephanie Schwab |

I’m not sure about you, but I’ve seen increasingly less activity on my Foursquare account lately, in my own stream and others’. While I do have a few new friends every so often, those whom I’ve followed for a long time (Foursquare early adopters, like myself) seem to not be checking in as much (and nor am I). The leaderboard has thinned and the checkins seem more and more mundane (Gym, Starbucks, office. Repeat.)

Foursquare now claims 10 million users, and Walmart had 149,484 checkins the week of Thanksgiving.  Those feel like very small numbers, at least when compared to Facebook (800 million active users).  And considering that there are about 3,800 Walmart stores nationwide, that’s only 39 checkins per store. Through the whole week of Black Friday. Meh.

At the same time, Foursquare has added a ton of new features, which could really attract and engage new users as well as old. A couple of weeks ago I checked into a movie theater and was given the option to select the movie I was there to see. Foursquare has partnered with MovieTickets.com to provide showtimes and ticket purchases in-app, which is pretty cool: if you’re checking in about a movie it’s highly likely you will want to share which movie.foursquare movie theater checkin

Foursquare also recently announced two new buttons for site owners to use to connect their readers directly the app. The more interesting of the two is a “save to Foursquare” feature which allows a user to add a location (restaurant, event, store, etc.) to their Foursquare to-do list. Instead of emailing myself the page as a reminder, a quick click will add it.  The other button will allow you to follow a person or business on Foursquare. I fear that these new buttons will get lost in “button fatigue,” though, and many websites won’t adopt them.

And therein lies the real problem: Do we have time for Foursquare? If the early adopters have dropped off, who’s actually using it?   And where does Foursquare hope to get new growth from?  It may be from “the kids” – the 13-24 year olds who came later to Twitter and still may be more prone to text than tweet.  And the retail buying power of some of these kids is strong, though they don’t control nearly as much budget as the 25-plusses do. I’m worried that if the early adopters no longer care, the momentum for growth will be lost.

What does this mean for brands and local businesses? I’ve never been a huge proponent of Foursquare for businesses, unless you’re a retailer.  I’m going to stand by that sentiment for the moment. If you’re JC Penney, Amex, or Radio Shack it may make sense for you to create campaigns, which you can run nationally and amortize over hundreds of locations.  And if you are a small business retailer or have a consumer location, you should certainly have a Foursquare presence, because you want to control how your business is presented.  But I wouldn’t put a whole lot of time or effort into it, at least not if you’re outside the major East and West Coast cities where there are heavier concentrations of Foursquare users. Unless, of course, you test it and find a great response from your customers.  (Isn’t that the key to marketing anyway? Test, test, and test some more!)

I’m not dooming Foursquare entirely, just saying that it feels like growth will be limited and it won’t ever be for every business (or user).  Perhaps your local bar is using it successfully today (are you the mayor?), but don’t expect every business you come into contact with to jump on board.

Is your business using Foursquare? And where do you think it’s headed?  Do you agree or disagree with my assessment?  I’d really love to hear about your successes, or failures, in the comments, as well as your analysis of Foursquare’s future.

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About the Author

Stephanie Schwab

Stephanie Schwab is the Principal of Crackerjack Marketing, a digital marketing agency specializing in social media planning and execution. Stephanie is also the founder of the Digital Family Summit, the first-of-its-kind conference for tween bloggers and content creators and their families. Throughout her 20-year career, she has developed and led marketing and social media programs for top brands and has presented on social media and e-commerce topics at numerous conferences and corporate events. Stephanie writes about social media at CrackerjackMarketing.com, sometimes hangs out at Google+, and tweets @stephanies.