Commentary

Counterpoint: Confessions Of A Super Mayor... Of Nowhere

I was just reading my fellow Social Media Insider's column "20 Confessions of a Super Mayor," and realized that I have a confession or two to make of my own. When it comes to Foursquare, Gowalla and so forth, I am... nowhere.

Sure, I've signed up. To Foursquare at least, but, as far as my engagement with it -- other than professional interest -- my participation is like that of a tree that fell in a forest with no one there to hear it: it ain't making a sound.

It basically has to do with lifestyle. Unlike what appears to be the globe-trotting life of many of my social media peers, I work from home, with my time tightly conscripted by my kids' schedules. Most days, with only minutes to go before the school bell rings, I go running out of here, with barely enough time to find my cell phone, let alone use it to check in somewhere. Not much time for other travel. This situation qualifies me to be mayor of about four locations:

  1. My home office on the second floor (best ergonomics on the premises!).
  2. The back deck (on sunny days).
  3. The comfy red chair in the living room (when I'm feeling restless).
  4. The basement (when the housecleaners are here).

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If I started checking in from the foyer, the back closet, and the upstairs hallway I'd have a shot at becoming a Super Mayor ... of my house, which I should be anyway -- except for the part the bank still owns. My reward? Keep paying those property taxes!

If I were to check in around the couple of locations I frequent where I live, the list would expand (snore!), to:

  1. My daughter's elementary school (lovely place, but would I really check in while surrounded by screaming kindergartners?).
  2. The local supermarket (so local I think its getting on the Foursquare bandwagon is a ways off).
  3. The CVS on the Post Road (there's something way too depressing about being mayor of a CVS ... denotes a life filled with boo-boos, allergies and antibiotics, which is true enough).
  4. The local bakery (no Starbucks here in town, so no $1 off Frappuccino for me).

In short, do I really want to telegraph this stuff and show people just how mundane my life may seem compared to theirs? (Whoops! I just did.) It's not that I have a problem with the life I lead; it's the life I chose and the life I want, even if it is lacking in nights out on the town, celebrity sightings and hashtagged tweets from most of the cool conferences.

But it leads me to an actual business question: How does location-based social bring people like me into the loop? It's not just the home workers I'm talking about, but the harried mom whose life doesn't generally involve many locations and is severely time-constrained at the same time. Most of the moms I know are on Facebook at this point, but they seem to view social as something they do from that little desk squeezed into a corner of the kitchen. If they don't, you certainly won't notice it from their status updates, which, like mine, might make reference to running errands, or driving to their kids' activities -- but I get the feeling those updates are not being made in situ, despite the demo's fairly high iPhone penetration.

We're also not a demo which is likely to check in to see who else is in a certain neighborhood, or city so we could hang out. Hang out? That's but a distant memory.

For us, I imagine, location-based social will boil down to something much more utilitarian: commerce, which takes most of the social out of it. It all becomes about getting' it done, another iteration of the continual pursuit of a good deal.

Can someone like me ever find fun on Foursquare if it doesn't involve a discount? I confess ... I don't know. In the meantime, until my life gets more exciting, I'm sure you'll all be glad not to know whether I'm reporting from the home office, or the comfy red chair, which is where I'm sitting right now. Oops. Sorry about that.

8 comments about "Counterpoint: Confessions Of A Super Mayor... Of Nowhere".
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  1. len stein, June 9, 2010 at 3:55 p.m.

    Dear out of the loop,

    be glad- unless you want to post each time you leave your house, kids' school, soccer field or dance class, supermarket, costco, fast foodery, gas station, convenience store

    Hey Ms Mayor, you do get around much more than ye knew.

  2. Roger Toennis from Liquid Media LLC, June 9, 2010 at 4 p.m.

    So true. I'm a user of foursquare because I'm building a solution that is an alternative to LBS for local advertising and I need to keep on top of developments in the check-in app world.

    But the reality is it takes only a couple months to reach "Check-in fatigue".

    3 big problems I see with LBS apps.

    1. Knowing where a small group of "friends" are at isn't really that interesting or useful. All of us are too busy and "scheduled" ourselves to be able to actually make any decisions to meet up with people in this pseudo-random fashion based on seeing a friend "check-in". So knowing where they are is at best minimally interesting.

    2. Businesses don't want to give deals to people who are already physically at their place of business and if people are already regularly coming to their business and paying full price why offer them discounts?

    3. The "yet another to-do on my to-do list" problem. Checking in at all these places is, lets face it, WORK. Do people need more work to do right now checking in 30 times at a starbucks just to get a friggin measly $1 off a frappacinno?

    4. Only 5% of the total population is ever going to be excited about and willing to continually check in at every place they go just to get a coupon when they have to also worry about the privacy angle.

    This concept is in no way as attractive as simple Facebook-like social sharing of info and simply has no legs for the long term to cross the chasm into mainstream adoption.

    RT

  3. Roger Toennis from Liquid Media LLC, June 9, 2010 at 4:01 p.m.

    Notice above I found an extra problem by the time I reached prob# 3. :-)

  4. Rick Lavoie from RUCKUS, June 9, 2010 at 4:08 p.m.

    Catharine, Thank you for the reality check for the 99% of the rest of us. I have to say your admittance of your recent destinations are actually more interesting than the Foursquare ones.

  5. Brian Hayashi from ConnectMe 360, June 9, 2010 at 4:27 p.m.

    I should first mention that I am not a big Foursquare user. Look up my profile and it is as bleak as the Sahara Desert.

    That being said, I believe check-ins perform the same valuable feature that logins do when facilitated by Facebook, Google, OAuth, etc: a secure method to authenticate that you are who you say you are, which in turn gives the place you are visiting certain access to information about you, which the venue can use to help customize your experience.

    Of course, if the business isn't taking the time to manage its contacts or maintain an email distribution list, it's probably not going to be a good fit for Foursquare either.

  6. Eric Schwamberger from zezzanetwork, June 9, 2010 at 5:22 p.m.

    I just unlocked my Super Mayor yesterday after a week or so trying to get my last badge. It can become a bit of a mundanely obsessive task when you live in a populated city and only go a couple of places.

    Unfortunately, being mayor (or super mayor) is not all it’s cracked up to be when you are the mayor of airports, hotels, restaurants in hotels, and the place you go to lunch.

    I am not the mayor of my office, however. And THAT does somewhat burn me.

    I might trade for that supermarket!

  7. Mark Burrell from Tongal, June 9, 2010 at 5:27 p.m.

    Agree with RT, not to mention, if I find an undiscovered gem, I usually want it to stay that way, not allow the gang with the douchebag badges to infiltrate,

  8. Donna DeClemente from DDC Marketing Group, June 9, 2010 at 6:28 p.m.

    Thanks so much Catherine for your confession. I thought I may be one of the few involved in social media marketing that doesn't have many exciting places to check-in at. I'm on Foursquare for business as well to learn what it's all about. I work out of my home and my husband is a great cook, so we don't go out to eat much. I don't have young children like you, mine are grown and home from college now. However, we're all still very busy.They ask me what friends I'm talking to when I do it.

    The other day I read a job description for a social media position that said that "you should be the mayor of something". I thought that was a very strange requirement for a job. Guess I won't be applying for that one.

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