I have a love-hate relationship with Foursquare.
On one hand, I think it’s given location-based services a bad name with its goofy badges, the silly “Mayor of” feature, and the lack of traction when it comes to creating a platform that businesses can leverage. On the other hand, Foursquare now has 6.5 million users, two million check-ins/day and 420 million check-ins since its launch.
So the challenge and question is what to make of Foursquare. Is an interesting enough service to include as part of a social media strategic plan? Or is a niche service with limited appeal as a marketing and sales vehicle? My sense is its remains the latter even though many companies would love to use Foursquare if there were better services to meet their needs and goals.
The biggest problem for Foursquare is many companies don’t consider it a serious part of the social media landscape. Second, there’s still little clarity in terms of how to leverage Foursquare aside from offering coupons to people who check-in. This means companies are looking for substance or ideas before committing to Foursquare, which has to compete with blogs, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube within a social media strategic plan
Perhaps Foursquare’s efforts have been focused on growth, which is impressive in the scheme of things but no where near the expectations it was the next Twitter when it launched in 2008. Foursquare was going to take the world by storm, and provide social media users with a real way to leverage location-based services.
To date, Foursquare is a niche service in a market that many still believe has huge potential. The idea of being able to deliver the right service or content at the right time at the right place is the “Holy Grail”. This explains why there is still optimism about the LBS market and, as important, the entry of new players such as Facebook Places.
While still in beta and, unfortunately, not in Canada, an intriguing new LBS start-up is Bizzy.com, which combines LBS with personalized recommendation for places to eat, shop and play based on places that you like. Bizzy matches this information against other people with similar interests to generate recommendations about other places you might like. Having not used the service after discovering nothing was available for Canadian cities, it is impossible to declare whether Bizzy is the real deal but what is interesting is the idea it generates insight and ideas based on information you provide – as opposed to simply having to check-in to places you visit.
My take is 2011 will be an exciting year for LBS but it is possible Foursquare won’t come along for the ride. With the ubiquity of smartphones and the growing popularity of tablet computers, there is a growing population looking for better, more interesting and more useful LBS services. If a start-up can create a service that does a good job of meeting demand, the LBS world could be their oyster.
More: Mashable has a short post on how Foursquare has now been translated into five more languages.