I was a fairly early adopter of Foursquare having joined up in March of 2010. I was particularly interested in how people might use the platform with check-ins and how Foursquare might monetize the platform. Nearly three years later I still check-in on Foursquare pretty regularly but I have noticed that my Foursquare network of friends appears to be losing interest and most are no longer checking in. Apparently they have collectively become disassociated (or dissatisfied) with the value proposition. What is the value proposition? Well that’s a big part of the problem with Foursquare.
Over the three years I have had some good experiences using Foursquare – things like friends seeing that I ‘checked-in’ someplace and who happened to be in the area and we met up. That was something that might not have happened had I not checked in. A decent value proposition but surely not enough to sustain interest much less a company.
Over the period that I’ve been using Foursquare features – cool features, have been added. I’ve written about the tie-ins at events like the U.S. Open tennis tournament where by checking in I was given a $10 off coupon (in partnership with American Express) to use to buy food at one of the concessions. Even if it only saved me a beer it still was cool to get something for nothing. At that point I felt that Foursquare was on its way to a more lasting success. Subsequent visits to various establishments after checking in have generated free appetizers, a glass of wine or other bonuses. The value proposition seemed to be high.
Foursquare’s best known investor, Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures in an article in Crain’s New York noted that Foursquare will soon be raising money and will become profitable “in the next year or two” From the article are some interesting statistics but I am not convinced they are important statistics since usage is not included. ‘According to comScore’s Mobile Metrix, Foursquare had 6.7 million unique visitors to its app in November, a 32% increase over March, when the research firm started tracking mobile app usage. That puts Foursquare just ahead of growth in the overall mobile app audience, which was 28%. By contrast, Pinterest grew by 230%, to 9.8 million unique visitors, and Instagram by 472%, to 21.7 million.’
Foursquare is also banking on the idea that small businesses and large retailers will pay for ‘promoted updates’. A future revenue stream has been in the works for a long time now, (eons in internet time) but in-app mobile advertising (not quite native advertising exactly but sort of) appears to be the aim.
That’s all well and good but if the engagement of the user base is evaporating at the same time (if my small sample is any indication and I have a suspicion it is) Foursquare had better hurry up before it’s too late.
If you are or were a Foursquare user how about letting us know what you think – why you dropped it, or why you keep using it.