FourSquare. In the immortal words of Thierry Henry, “let me break it down”.
FourSquare defines itself as “part friend finder, part social city guide, part nightlife game’.
The team claim that they “wanted to build something that not only helps you keep up with your friends, but exposes you to new things in and challenges you to explore cities in different ways.”
It’s a geosocial site (and application) which enables you to ‘check in’ at places and share details about your activity. More importantly – and this is what sets it apart from BrightKite et al – it syncs info about local businesses to enable you to share your favourite places, give people tips about the things and places you love and create a to a to-do list based on the recommendations of friends and neighbours.
The opportunity for business is enormous, allowing brands to reward consumers who are advocates, to monitor, engage with and respond to users and to further cement consumer loyalty, e.g. offering you a free coffee if you check in at your local cafe four days in a row.
The B2C commercial imperative is obvious – can businesses afford not to have a presence on FourSquare?
The reason it’s so addictive – and will, I predict, become massive in Australia – is that it’s framed as a competition, with just enough hipster credibility not to feel contrived.
You become the Mayor of a certain location by checking in there more frequently than anyone else, are given badges for particular activity (adding new places, spiked activity at night etc.) and user statistics are updated weekly on each city’s leaderboard (currently Likeomg, Warlach and I are amongst Sydney’s biggest hitters) – thus appealing directly to the ego and plugging in to our desire to be seen as influential, in the know, hyperconnected digital douchebags….
Rewarding users by offering them ultimately meaningless and arbitrary trophies demonstrates an extremely sophisticated understanding of the psyche of the early adopter/ digital native on the part of the creators.
It’s been hit by so much activity in Australia since its launch (in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne) on Friday that the servers needed to be upgraded, and I am still finding much of the functionality within the website is limited and buggy. It works like a charm on iPhone though, which is after all where the heaviest use will occur.
Scoble says FourSquare is the next big thing, suggesting it’s as significant as the Twitter API release:
“It enhances your experience in each location. Check in at the Half Moon Bay Ritz and you’ll see tons of “tips” that people have left for you. Francine Hardaway, for instance, tells you where the best dog beachis. I tell you how to save $40 on smores. Other people tell you that Tres Amigos is the best Mexican place nearby”
This certainly looks like the first site developed for internet on the move that’s actually going to make it to the mainstream – the execution isn’t quite there yet but it seems to be well thought through at a strategic level, cleverly rationalised and with the key component -monetisation – built in from the beginnning.