The potential of mobile social media had been there for a while. But before Foursquare and Gowala appeared there was little to show the potential. In fact the only successful example was Flirtomatic. It is really more of a dating site than a true social media site. However in the Autumn of 2009, the US start-ups took a location-based approach to social media, and whilst its appeal seems limited to city-based media types, they have paved the way for Facebook Places. Mobile social media is now main stream.
Towards the end of last year I decided to play with Foursquare as everyone was talking about it. And it’s quite addictive. I added tips to my favourite local haunts, and ousted a number of people as mayor of said places. It dawned on me the other day that Foursquare isn’t social media at all. It’s a game. When I looked at how I used it, there was no social media element to it. I don’t use it to see where my friends are, I don’t use it to make new friends. I use the tips occasionally, but I’m more likely to use other apps for recommendations. In fact, some of my friends felt that Foursquare was ultimately pointless, and encouraged by poor technology, they ditched the app.
So why do I continue? My check-in’s have dropped from a few a day to a few a week. However, whenever I get an email to say I’ve been ousted as mayor of somewhere, then I start checking in again. If I’m in a new place, and especially if I have time to kill, then I’ll look around for venues to check in to. I was in north Wales a few weeks ago. I noticed that Caernarfon Castle didn’t have a mayor, so I check in there and won the status. I didn’t have much competition as no one in north Wales is interested in Foursqaure.
I’ve been asking around since then and most people I speak to stick with the social media app in order to win, or maintain their mayor status. A few people said they liked the tips. Not one of them said they used it because they could see where their friends were, or make more contacts/friends. The only conclusion I can reach is that Foursquare is not social media at all, but simply a game. I think the site has done great things with check-in offers by creating opporutnies for brands big and small. But it doesn’t detract from the fact that Foursquare is basically a game. It looks like a conclusion that Foursquare have also reached. Their only revenue at the moment seems to come from selling t-shirts and coasters with mayor badges.