FourSquare–Should Organizations in Singapore Jump on board? 4


Does it make sense for local companies to invest resources into Foursquare?

After receiving many questions about the location-based social networking service, which now has 4 million users, I embarked on a three week personal and unscientific experment in search of an answer.  Checking in at every opportunity I managed to form a few impressions.

I was impressed when, at Holland Village, the network realized my location and pushed to me a good friend's recommendation to visit Wala Wala for better than average wings and happy hour beer prices.  Pretty cool, especially considering that I consider myself as a wings connoisseur.  This happened again today at Raffles City when a tip from another friend suggested I go by Starbucks for a cuppa joe and the free wi-fi.  Not bad!

But every coin has two sides.

Such recommendatiosn have appeared only twice in three weeks (despite many check-ins).  Additionally, these tips were not enough to pry the hard-earned money from my hand.  Maybe more importantly, the overwhelming majority of tips (in my personal opinion) offered no useful advice.  "Mmmm…yummy" or "I love this place" are two simple examples.  What should I buy that is yummy or what about the place do you specifically love?  In another recent example a user shared a tip which was nothing more than a frustrated rant about how much they dislike SMU students who were seated in the Coffee Bean. 

Tips written in this fashion make Foursquare less-than-useful to users, and thus of little value to organizations. 

Second, I also noticed that after Foursquare reset itself on Sunday night, within a couple hours many users had checked in to 30-50 locations and run up hundreds of points.  All within a couple hours?  I have delayed writing this post as I looked for alternate explanations, but to the best of my ability it appears we have a portion of users who simply want to compete for points and ranking. Again, this adds no value to another user's experience.

So when I combine my observations–unhelpful tips combined with a race to earn points and ranking–I see a social network lacking a mature ecosystem capable of delivering a useful or meaningful location-based experience.  The idea behind Foursquare and its potential are awesome, but the reality appears to fall short after my committed yet unscientific experiment. 

I will keep an eye on this network in the future.  I love the idea of a location-based social network and truly hope the ecosystem matures.  But at the moment, I would be hard-pressed to recommend that an organization invest its precious resources into Foursquare.  Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter make a whole lot more sense in Singapore. 


  1. Hi Aaron,Glad to hear people are checking into libraries. I think too often we are afraid people rely entirely on Google.With regards to frequency counts and the number of visitors to a library, I am guessing the old fashioned entrance turn styles (or any traffic counter) will offer a much better frequency count than will Foursquare. I guess my view is that check-ins alone are of little to no value. My unscientific observation is that Foursquare’s peer-to-peer design yields little that is helpful to users and beneficial to the business locations. So what is the value of saying that X people have checked in at a specific location? I suspect most managers will see no value and some may even question what you are doing with your time. They might push it a step further and say these people would have visited the destination anyway, with or without Foursquare. There is no causal relationship.I tend to think Corp Comm function or PR team should generally not invest its precious resources into something which offers no foreseeable return. Foursquare is cool and I like it, but currently see little business value. Use behaviors need to lead to a more mature ecosystem before peers receive anything useful and businesses realize the the worth of investing in this channel.Meanwhile, I will keep playing with Foursquare for another week or two. Thanks for stopping by the old blog.

  2. I always thought if any one country would benefit from Foursquare, Singapore would be it. Where else could hyper-local targeting work across the island at any time of the day? A person could check in at a Starbucks in Jurong and again in somewhere else in the island like Bugis, and be exposed to different deals at different stores.To some extent that makes a lot of sense from the organisation’s standpoint because one person can be responsible for all the Foursquare updates and promotions across the island, but yet reap the benefits because of our dense population, something that wouldn’t be possible in larger countries because it would be so different from coast to coast they would more likely put one person in charge per local store/area, which may not be efficient from a cost point of view.Perhaps the issue is the critical mass. Not enough people are using Foursquare and not enough are seeing the benefits (like yourself and certainly me), thus the network effect is lacking and only the truly dedicated are still playing around with Foursquare.Interesting to see if this will change with Facebook Places, which would already have a larger installed base.

  3. Hey Daryl,Great to hear from you. Must agree critical mass is certainly an issue. I think FourSquare currently incentivizes the wrong behaviors for what I seek–a meaningful social network experience. The current incentives for checking in help the company build its geo-location network and sites, and that is very important long term, but that is about it. To date, I have not yet encountered a single incentive from a company, and most of the tips are simply unhelpful. People seem (to me) to worry too much about badges and points, and we aren’t seeing much in the way of really helpful tips.I agree there is a lot of potential for a market like Singapore, but I am sensing we are a long way away from that being realized.

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