Monday, December 14, 2009

Four reasons why people hate Foursquare, and why they're wrong.

Note: This post was originally written as a guest-post on Adam Kmiec's blog; you can find it here, and also on the DRAFTFCBlog, here.

I love the internet. I really do. Truly, madly, deeply.

I love it for its quiet brilliance. I mean, after LOLcats, of course.

As a self-proclaimed digital kid, I am perhaps more inclined than the average bear to jump on internet bandwagons, due partly to my age, and partly to the fact that I’m such a savvy so-and-so (I kid). As such, I often find myself defending web ideas to my suspicious circle of colleagues and friends, and am always a bit surprised to have to do so. The things I find so incredible in their simplicity tend to strike my skeptical cohorts as stalker-esque, creepy fads. Can all my Foursquare haters please stand up?

For anyone who’s unaware, Foursquare is a location-based social networking community that allows users to state their coordinates and offer helpful tips to friends and other users who might also frequent that venue. Check off items on your to-do list, earn points, win badges, and become mayor of your favorite spots by checking in there more than any other patron. Fun, right?

This weekend, I found myself arguing on Foursquare’s behalf on two separate occasions. I know. I need to get a life. Anyway, both scenarios involved individuals in the advertising community, and both conversations, despite my fervent outpouring of Foursquare love, resulted only in blank stares and/or furrowed brows. What. Is up. With that.

Let’s all stop hating for a moment and contemplate what it is about Foursquare that launches it to the top of my list of quietly brilliant web innovations.

Here are the top reasons to hate on Foursquare that I’ve heard from the hater community. And, of course, the reasons I beg to differ.

1. It’s creepy.

Yes, there’s an element of weirdness to having a location feed available on the web for the masses, especially as a single female in a big city. I’m not stupid; I get that. Perhaps I will get kidnapped on the way home from my current location, and you can all have a good laugh about it (jerks). You know what? Life is creepy sometimes. And dangerous, always. This is one of those cases where I feel like the benefits outweigh the risks, so long as you’re smart about the information you share. Keep reading for more on that.

2. It’s annoying.

It's not annoying, it's information. Foursquare is a gold mine for consumer data. I really can’t believe that I would need to argue this to people in the industry. All pings, badges and tomfoolery aside, what Foursquare does, essentially, is give businesses a free list (a list! for free!) of digital-savvy consumers who love you enough to want to broadcast to their web community that they are a patron. These are people who carry a certain amount of digital clout that want to spread the word about you, and they are going to do it for free. And, you now have access to a list of them, what they think are the best parts about your business, and even some information about them (their Twitter handles, phone numbers, and so on). It’s a CRM-lover’s dream. How are you not excited about this?

3. Who cares?

You care! Especially all those ‘yous’ out there who are in the biz. Or, the business-owning ‘yous.’ Our job as marketers is to care. You care (a) what people do with their time (b) what they choose to tell their people they're doing with their time and (c) when you can put your brand in front of them at the right moment in time. Not to pontificate, but if the internet is spitting out free applications that help us to gather the data that provides a foundation for our profession, it is our responsibility to care.

[A caveat: this is not to say that no-one cares. I have seen a few cool case studies of businesses that have jumped on the Foursquare train, and are riding it to Consumer-Love Station. This post about the Pit BBQ in Raleigh, for example, truly warms my heart. Kudos to you, Pit BBQ management. Consumer interaction: you’re doing it right.]


4. Why would I want to do that?

Well, this one is really up to you. I like it because it’s a game, it’s fun to do, and it gives me a tool to coordinate nights out with friends. I also like the idea of creating a database of my existence, which is why you can find me tucking seemingly trivial information into many different data-ports around the web. It seems to matter to me. Personal preference of the digital kid, I imagine. But, fun for everyone who chooses to participate, I find.

Like I said, my romantic feelings for the internet lie mainly in its outpouring of tools that unabashedly display simple, beautiful, quiet brilliance. If nothing else, I love that I’ve been able to use applications like Foursquare to build out a community of web-adoring geeks such as myself. I simply cannot wait to see what awesomeness lies ahead for those businesses that have us geeks heading up their marketing initiatives.

For all those out there who choose to remain creeped out, annoyed, apathetic and non-participating, I apologize for wasting a moment of your time.

Thanks go to my editor, Clay, for helping to un-muddle my thoughts on this one. Virtual high-five. Thanks also to Adam, for asking me to guest-post. I'm flattered, and honored.

8 comments:

  1. Hey Jen,

    I'm in Chicago too and would love to chat sometime about foursquare. I'm working with them and building a team of passionate users here in Chicago (and beyond). We should definitely get together.

    graves.ryan@gmail.com
    Hope to talk to you soon.

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  2. Jennifer,

    What about the coupon aspect? You have to love an application that rewards loyal customers with coupons and discounts to incentivize their obsessive, loyal behavior.

    And the only real creepy aspect is my mom figuring out how many days a week I really eat at Taco Bell.

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  3. Agree to agree on the coupons, Jason, although I really can't wait until businesses start using this more. I've only seen one or two in Chicago. Phenomenal opportunities there, though!

    Yeah... I keep ousting people as mayor of the food court. Shameful. :)

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  4. Its damned annoying when you're constantly update where your friends are. I seriously couldn't give care.

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Thoughts?