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.