When I recently browsed my Foursquare contacts - admittedly to remove some dead weight because I was getting too close to the 1,000 friend limit - I saw that a number of friends had stopped using it. I wanted to know why, and several were kind enough to share their stories.
This isn't about bashing Foursquare. The majority of my friends are active users, with their most recent check-in happening within the past week. Yet to acknowledge the obvious, most people - even most smartphone owners - have never used Foursquare. Those who tried Foursquare and stopped are in a unique position to speak to some of Foursquare's challenges, and some of the challenges for location-based services in general. Interestingly, as I was soliciting opinions for this piece, Facebook killed its Places check-in service, and distant runner-up Gowalla killed off some of its popular features. So it's an especially important time to understand the user value proposition of social location-based services.
Below are several thoughts on why people stopped using Foursquare, along with the date of their last check-in. For more thoughts on this, you can find a vibrant discussion on Google+.
Robert Wollner (April 2010): I don't like people knowing where I am and what I am doing unless it is very fun and very exciting. Similar to the value of Google+, I don't like the idea of coworkers, friends, family, and clients knowing what I am doing at all times.
Anonymous (December 2010): In truth, I didn't check in on Facebook all that much so I guess I won't miss it much anyway, and I don't plan to start using Foursquare again. I only ever used Foursquare and Facebook to check in when I was somewhere I wanted to remember or when I was somewhere with a group of "real life" friends (which Facebook is better for). While I played with Foursquare for a while, I didn't really get any benefit from it. The location-based deals idea is interesting though if it ever takes off. I'd love to get the benefit of deals for being a regular at places I like.
Walt Ribeiro (June 2010): I used to be a huge Foursquare user, but yes, I haven't touched it in more than a year. When Facebook places came out I stopped using Foursquare that very day. Then I began using Facebook less, and as a result haven't 'checked in' much at all. All the investment I had to do in order to become a mayor, just to save 10% on a $2.00 soft drink seemed senseless to me when I began to look at the time I was investing in these companies. That, and the idea of "investing social capital" was not something I wanted. My friends and followers don't care where I am, it had nothing to do with my music company or music fans, so the whole thing seemed more like a fad than a business strategy.
Jeff Rutherford (August 2010): Social media fatigue. I've used SCVNGR, which I liked a lot more than Foursquare, but even with SCVNGR I'm not a regular user. I do use social media a lot, but checking in to physical spaces is something I only do occasionally. I have two small kids, and everything I do in social media I question the time spent vs. what I'm gaining. Checking-in to physical locations ranks pretty low, so I don't do it that often.
Susan Bratton (February 2011): A boring waste of time. Something someone else wants me to do for them. No value. Focused on my own deliverables. Feel the same about Google+.
Ian Jindal (May 2011): I initially had fun with Foursquare - easy mayorships, interesting places and some discovery. After a while though the game became too much: my wife complained, my roaming fees increased... Then a few small things started to annoy me [that] culminated in my abandoning Foursquare and deleting the app ;) They were, in no particular order:
- I didn't care where other people checked in. It was Twitter spam. I didn't find anything of interest in real-time and none of my followers or real life friends cared either (i.e. no utility, no fun).
- The check-in is too crude. Places mixed with events and so the purpose/benefit is reduced. May as well just tweet with the location turned on.
- Other than mayorships, there's nothing else to the game.
Taken together, the brief game magic evaporated. There's only room in one's life for a couple of systems and between Twitter, microblogging, TripIt and one experiment (currently Google+), that's me full :). Of course I'm 45 and currently feeling rather grumpy, so I'd not assume that this is a general position ;)
Ian and others are hardly grumpy. They've just figure out what works for them, and in these cases, Foursquare doesn't. For a much greater group of people, Foursquare hasn't made the case yet to try it out. The value of these mobile social services is evolving, and it's something that Foursquare, its peers, brands, marketers, and of course consumers will have to figure out.
So where do you stand? Share your thoughts on the Social Media Insider comments, in Google+, or if you're so passionate about it, create an event on Foursquare and leave your opinion as a tip.
I was a sporadic FourSquare user in NYC, then ramped it up when I moved to San Diego to help connect with people and places in my new town, now I'm tailing off again. My kids get a kick out of it when I do it, my GF finds it either cute or annoying depending on my frequency and her mood, and occasionally it's fun to have to check in from epic places, like the Hoover Dam (as I did last week). I don't see this as a sustaining experience, however, more like a fad. I suspect in the long run it will be either absorbed into or surpassed by another social network that offers more.
I definitely relate to social media fatigue, and I will never be a fanatic about checking in (I never use it on FB), but Foursquare has kept my attention for two reasons:
1) Some venues have specials, if it's something I'm interested in, I will check in;
2) When I'm traveling, I've culled some very good tips from Foursquare by scoping out what's near my location--I discovered a great little chocolate store on my way to Prune in NYC, thanks to a Foursquare tipster.
I quit Foursquare cold turkey on March 28th of this year. My story is here: http://admajoremblog.blogspot.com/2011/06/foursquare-ready-to-think-outside-box.html
To summarize, though, I started Foursquaring for business reasons, and eventually saw few enough of those to continue.
Happily, they seem to be getting more active on the tie-in front. If so, that's great -- I've always thought they had the most monetize-able social media play available.
The site is not scalable to handle much traffic. It is way too slow. A fading novelty.
I think I've maybe mentioned this before but it bears repeating: One invariant metric for social media use is the figure 24/7. Commit it to memory!
Assuming a person could be awake for 24 hours and 7 days per week, that's the "competition space" any social media company has to play in. As new channels open up, the 24/7 figure does not increase - only the amount of time an individual can allocate varies.
So while someone is "FourSquaring," they are not twittering - and if they stop to send off a few tweets, they are not on Facebook. Even the most dedicated of social multi-taskers cannot defy the laws of Physics and add more time, only shift it Just like you can TiVo a program to watch it "later," you have still not created extra time. And so it goes with social media channels.
You are spot on, David, with your comment "There's only room in one's life for a couple of systems" and this is so transparent an observation that I think people honestly forget it! The specter of "24/7" haunts all marketeers who are looking to leverage social media channels and whether you believe in ghosts or not, this one will NOT disappear!
I used Foursquare a lot, and haven't posted in a about two weeks. Being on an iPhone with AT&T means you get crap coverage firstly. Secondly, there is no real benefit to doing it.
Thirdly, I realized that it too closely reveals where I am, not that I am hiding anything, but, if you know where I am, my home is vulnerable, as are kids etc. Lastly, no one in my network really cares.
I was never a fan of check-in services, for the obvious security reasons and because it's ultimately a boring waste of time. Game mechanics? Puh-leez. I'm a grown-up. I don't want to chit-chat with pals at Trader Joe's or the car wash. I want to get in and get on with my day. I certainly have more important things to think about than saving a few pennies off a product. Indeed, if I REALLY cared about saving a few cents, I'd clip coupons from the Sunday paper. But I can't be bothered with that either.
I used Foursquare occasionally because I teach social media marketing and have a duty to study all the platforms. I quit cold turkey in February 2010 after being cyber-stalked by some creeps who were using Foursquare check-ins to terrorize women. My situation has been widely reported in the press. BTW, I didn't pitch my story to journalists. They all found me via posts by friends of mine. I actually didn't want to give those stalker jerks the satisfaction of feeling like they were getting press. You can read about it here (among other places): http://bit.ly/gawkstalk
That said, I might use Foursquare occasionally if I'm traveling (and I have a house-sitter at home) to connect with friends at a conference. And I logged in once to save 20% at Radio Shack. But that's it. I disable it on my iPhone 99% of the time.
I have long said geo-local check-ins will never go mainstream. You just won't find your average Walmart shoppers posting their locations to get 20 cents off dish soap when there are safer ways to get the same discounts.
I check in a lot using Forusquare. I use it as a sort of diary. It helps me remember how I spent my time, it reminds me to take pictures, and its generally only happy memories that are getting recorded. Helping me connect with friends is a side benefit, but, at the moment, it's pretty limited for the over 40 crowd like myself.
I never used FourSquare because my BlackBerry App world froze the first time I tried to download it, and I never was motivated enough to try again. That being said, Facebook Places works well for me when I'm at an event and I want to know who else is there. It's also a no brainer. Because I travel alot, a location based service makes sense to learn who else is nearby.
I tried Foursquare briefly, but felt I was giving up way too much information for very little benefit.Being the "mayor" of someplace or just playing the game had very little appeal. Coupons seemed to be the only tangible perk.
Not to mention that I had to sync other devices, load up all sorts of info about my locations, etc. Total time sink I did not have time for. I wrote my leaving Foursquare back in November '10:
Nice piece and conversation. Overall, I see a declining social value in posting, wherever, "Nyaa Nyaa Nyaa, I am here, and you are not."
Both Groupon and Foursquare will soon be added to the annals of "hype-based internet services with no sustainable business model."
Facebook and Google will add few interesting elements of both to their existing offers and Foursquare and Groupon will begin a rapid descent to "deadpool of overhyped companies with zero business model".
Before they reach that low level I would recommend they aggressively go shop to Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Credit Card companies, Facebook and sell.
Now that everyone has finally figured out these companies aren't ever going to be sustainable going concerns they are headed to ever more discounted valuations compared to what they had at their peaks.
It's funny how all the reasons could apply to ANY social network, really: "social media fatigue", "only so much time in a day", "people don't care where I am/what I am doing at every moment"... I didn't know FOURSQUARE before reading the article, I'm glad I haven't missed much!
It's been stated more eloquently elsewhere, but the biggest challenge any marketer (including Foursquare) faces is that of motivation. After all, people will spend more time on fewer sites as they become more sophisticated in their media consumption.
The key is in eliminating the threshold resistance to participation, as Facebook and Twitter have been attempting to do by incorporating geotagging into status updates. Looking at Foursquare's recent efforts, I see them baking check-ins into everyday transactions such as purchases with a credit card (Amex) or purchases at a specific merchant (Catalina Marketing).
Great article David and very relevant to the hype versus reality of social sites today. I referenced your article in my blog post last week in case you'd like to check it out: http://www.visibletechnologies.com/blog/2011/10/07/are-location-based-social-services-worth-using/