Why Foursquare will survive the saturated social networking market

Alright. My last post on Foursquare for a while. I promise.

I recently wrote a piece about Foursquare and their brand partnerships and advertising potential. It elaborated on Foursquare’s current location-based capabilities – and its potential for permanently changing the online/offline corporate advertising relationships.

My digital media professor commented on my work, saying that she herself hadn’t joined Foursquare (yet) but that she also couldn’t imagine adding another social network to her repertoire.

That got me thinking. We are living in a world saturated with social networking sites and online entertainment, consuming our everyday lives. How can we afford to add one more? Why did I first join Foursquare, and continue to use it on a regular basis? Where did I find the time? What makes it so different? As Ferris Bueller’s sister would ask, what makes him so god damn special?

Well Jeanie, I think I have an answer for you.

1. Foursquare is a primarily mobile-centric network

Foursquare revolves around the ability to upload status check-ins and tips on the fly via your mobile phone. For all of us tech-savvy folks, they offer tailored apps for the iPhone, Blackberry, Android, and Palm phones. In case the Big 4 don’t cover your mobile-friendly lifestyle, they also have an easily accessibly mobile site from any smartphone. And even then, if I dare to suggest you do not have a smartphone, you always have the option to text in your status update.

The bottom line is this network is predominantly used on the go when people are not busy with anything else, making it a seamless addition to your social media catalog. Apart from the 18 seconds it takes to locate yourself, participating in the Foursquare network does not take time away from any other network, or from any other aspect of your life.

2. Foursquare functions on a need-only basis

How many hours do you spend quantum leaping from one Facebook profile to the next? Or skimming your 450-following Twitter feed to absorb every last element of real-time thoughts? How many “related videos” can you click on YouTube before that wolf-eating-a-mammoth-eating-a-snake viral turns into you watching the next Twilight trailor? Ok, maybe that’s just me.

Foursquare is not a network where you expend unlimited amounts of time browsing users’ profiles. It runs on a need-to-know platform. You’re at a restaurant and you want some recommendations on what to order? You’re out on the town and you want to know where you can grab the cheapest drinks? Foursquare is your immediate gratification resource for these questions, and since your location is so eloquently pinpointed, it takes away from the time-consuming Google research in which you would normally need to divulge.

3. Foursquare is a game

Who doesn’t like playing games? With every check-in, you receive a specific amount of points which are tallied on a weekly and yearly basis, and compared on a leaderboard with the rest of your friends. By checking in to certain venues at different times, you also earn badges acknowledging your accomplishments. If you check-in to a location enough times, you can become the “mayor” of the venue, which at the very least gives you bragging right.

You can’t redeem these points for anything valuable, and the badges don’t transfer into tangible medals. So why do we Foursquare users love it? Because it’s fun.  Because they offer some form of immediate gratification which rewards you for using their product. On a bad day when nothing goes your way, you can always check-in to a location, look down at your screen, and have Foursquare tell you that you did something good. As Jason would say, it’s all about the points (seventeen of them, to be specific).

So will Foursquare survive the social networking boom? Only time will tell. But with all that it has going for it, it has a better chance than most.

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I want one

In light of my recent obsession with foursquare, I was extremely excited about the prospect of purchasing this t-shirt.

Social media is taking over the world…

and Texts From Last Night

My Buzz With Google

Google Buzz and Google Wave

Google has recently put out some new products in their tech family, two notable ones being Wave and Buzz. I will admit I was the first one to sell myself out for a Wave invite, and though I was never excited about Buzz, I did link to it every social media account I managed.

I think these products have good potential, but they are missing one key element which will mark any product’s success: mobile technology. It’s great that Wave can be a home-base for a coherent conversation between a dozen people, but how do these participants know when changes have been made so they can approve? There is no email or push notification alerting of this. And for people who are on-the-go, how do they use Wave in a mobile savvy environment?

The same goes for Buzz. Luckily, many professionals these days use Gmail to read their email. This makes the Buzz product more relevant. But what happens when you’re not at your computer, which is, umm, a lot? Why would someone log onto a Web browser to update a Buzz status when Twitter has made it so easy to text in a status update? When Facebook has developed an app for every smartphone platform? When even YouTube has capabilities of uploading videos on the fly? When foursquare is quickly climbing the location-based update ladder? When most smartphones already have a Google Talk application that will allow them to keep up a status without actively being online?

Google, which at one time lead the Silicone Valley innovation, seems to be getting lazy. Buying-out a company and slapping an ad on it? The model is dying.

If you’re going to pioneer anything these days, it needs to be mobile friendly. Either Google will need to figure out how to integrate these new products into our mobile-obsessed world, or they will fail.

The Future of Foursquare and Brand, Business Partnerships

FoursquareAt first glance, Foursquare can be misconstrued as nothing but a simple social media network built for entertainment purposes. The one-line description usually classifies the product as a “game where you check-in at locations and earn badges.” More sophisticated ones explain how users can receive advice on where to eat, what to order, where to find what you’re looking for.

Though these statements are all true, they represent only a fraction of Foursquare’s current capabilities – and its potential for permanently changing the online/offline corporate advertising relationships.

Brand and Business Partnerships

On February 1st, 2010, the trendy network television brand Bravo! TV announced a partnership with Foursquare, the location-based social networking sensation. This alliance would enable Foursquare to highlight locations, or “check-in points,” relevant to Bravo Television shows and stars.

Though this wasn’t the first time Foursquare has worked with a business or brand, it is its first true media collaboration. This endeavors, and the partnerships it has since then put into motion (Zagat, Warner Bros., and HBO), makes this a significant milestone in the expansion of the Foursquare program into mainstream everyday life.

Though these are the only true partnerships Foursquare has produced thus far, they began a system called “Foursquare for Businesses,” launched in September 2009. This enables businesses to list specials for Foursquare users (such as 2 for 1 coffee on your first check-in, free drink for the venue Mayor, free desert for every 10th check-in). Not only do these deals appear when users check-in to the venue in questions, but they also appear when a user checks-in to any venue nearby. This model is an ingenious way to build reliable clientele, and to create new ones. It is also a free service offered by Foursquare (at least for now.)

Foursquare for businesses

Where Twitter is Failing, Foursquare is…

Foursquare has been projected by many social media industry leaders to be the Twitter of 2010. The two internet start-up companies have a similar user-base and measured growth. With their ability for effortless and instant updates, both are extremely pertinent to today’s digital and mobile lifestyle. Just this month, Foursquare reached the 300,000 users benchmark, jumping from the Innovators phase to the Early-adopters.

Where Twitter has yet to flourish is its ability to create revenue (or dare I say, inability to even conceptualize the means of doing so.) This is what sets Foursquare apart. Though their current “Foursquare for Businesses” does not charge companies to list their business or specials, this model holds the ability to seamlessly migrate over to a charging system without causing uproar as Twitter has potential to do.

In their current free listing system, Foursquare is able to build their database of businesses, making the social networking site more relevant to consumers. These businesses will also advertise Foursquare deals on their own, to encourage repeat clientele. Through this circular relationship, Foursquare will also be able to collect pertinent data on their listed businesses and the success of their specials. Unlike Twitter, which has struggled to offer measurable results to justify their ability to charge for accounts, Foursquare can compile data proving success as they continue to grow and explore means of turning a profit.

From “Pay Per Click” to “Pay Per Check-in”

These partnerships with local businesses have the potential to grow to a “Pay Per Check-in” model. Many businesses already use Google AdWords, allowing them to only pay for advertising that yield them coverage. This “Pay Per Click” model allows targeted advertising on small budgets. Foursquare can pioneer a “Pay Per Check-in” model, offering premium accounts to businesses and charging a nominal fee per check-in, or per special awarded. Would a business mind paying a few cents to drive clientele on a more regular basis? I don’t think so, and I think on a broad scale, this could be a lucrative element to Foursquare – and a valuable asset to businesses’ digital brands.

If Twitter tells me #Honorsociety is hot shit, it must be true

You know you’ve made it in showbiz when you’ve made it on Twitter.

I’m running through my Twitter accounts to catch up on news in the world and in my industry. As usual, I browse through the Twitter Trending Topics to see what people are talking about most. The usual come up: #musicmonday, Haiti, Titanic which just recently aired on network television, #theburiedlife, MTV’s newest coockie-cutter reality TV show… but the at the top is #honorsociety. I check the description, and the only explanation currently available is “because the gentlemen of @honorsociety rock twitter.” Thanks Twitter community for being so descriptive.

So I follow the Twitter search, and Honor Society is an r&b influenced pop band. I listen to some of their music on their MySpace page. Alright, I’ll give it to them. It’s a torrid love affair edged on the Backstreet boys crossed with Cobra Starship, subtly pre-packaged in a Disney Channel after school special. In sum, something I may listen to privately in the deepest ends of my closet in substitution for downing half a bottle of Patron to get rid of an isolated bad day. But that it neither here nor there.

Honor Society... I rest my case.

I am still baffled. How did they get to #1 Trending Topic? I became momentarily obsessed with this idea (as you can tell by having to write a blog posting about it.) For something that is so instantaneous like Twitter, I would expect a big event occurring for them to rise so quickly. The most recent appearance of Honor Society in the news was on January 31st when they sang the National Anthem at the Pro Bowl. Before that, they announced their next concert tour “Here Comes Trouble” on January 21st. Moving back even further, their most recent album was released on September 15th, 2009. Google Trends shows them on the up and up, but nothing standing out in a spike. Looking at their @honorsociety Twitter account, there is no activity out of the ordinary, no recent calls to action.

How did this happen? Are their fans really that obsessed? Are they really that much more technically savvy than the hundreds of thousand other mainstream bands out there? And for this to happen at 11:30 p.m. on a school night when most of the Disney Channel audience is counting sheep in their toasty beds?

I do not have the answers yet. But I have a sneaking suspicion that these answers will unlock the nexus of the universe.

World of Whatcraft? How gaming has changed – and not changed

Old School vs New School Gaming Advertising

Deja-vu in gaming advertising? Somethings don't change...

I am not a huge gamer. My experience with online gaming is limited to my Rock Band landing 689th place playing a rendition of The Knack’s “My Sharona,” which put us in the top 1% of the overall Xbox community. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t proud.

Because of this lack of knowledge, my social media class on gaming was a huge eye opening experience. I enjoyed watching my professor Mike run around the virtual world of World of Warcraft (suddenly that ‘Call of Duty’ episode from the office made a lot more sense.) I could not believe there was that many people inside that virtual world at the same time.

The idea of interactive computer games has been around for a while, and although the idea that you are interacting with real people – in real-time – in a virtual world is rather mind-boggling to me, it’s not something I would write home about.

What I do think is fascinating is the idea of using these games to make money, advertise, and promote real-life products.

Inside Second Life, Starwood Hotels established the aloft Hotel, which opened up online months before the real hotel even opened its doors. This fall, Massive‘s video game advertising network added many multi-player games, including World of Warcraft, major EA sports, and Guitar Hero.  Even back in October 2008, a Barack Obama billboard appeared in Burnout Paradise, making him the first Presidential candidate to purchase in-game advertising.

Beyond the video game world, I’ve noticed companies trying to get involved with online games within social networks. The game that stands out to me the most is that of Farmville, the online farming game that allows you to plant, grow, and manage crops. Last October, the game’s maker Zynga advertised a “Sweet Seeds for Haiti” program, allowing players to purchase limited edition sweet potato seeds that never wither and last one week. Half of the proceeds benefit charity. They recently also added in-game pop-ups advertising their other games.

Unofficially, I can also testify that the company BioTech approached Farmville with the idea of having Farmville showcase a special “BioTech seed,” which would grow faster/last longer etc. Farmville responded with a quote of $200,000 for a 2 week promotion. That is ridiculous!

Though this process nevertheless fascinates me, I’ve found it is hardly ground-breaking. In looking back through the years, you can see that these advertisements are nothing new: FIFA_International_Soccer

Above, an Adidas billboard is displayed in the foreground of the 1994 computer game FIFA International Soccer.

Cupa Chups in Zool

Also displayed is a screenshot of the “Sweet World” in Zool for the Amiga system (1992), in which the iconic striped Chupa Chups products can be seen in the background.

As you can see by these screenshots, and even the playful t-shirts above, advertising in games is not a new concept, but it’s one that has certainly evolved over time.

(Something tells me little ol’ Chupa Chups was not submitted to a $200,000 sponsorship fee.)

Social media + technology = a recipe for disasterous customer service stories

A post, about a post, about a post.

A classmate of mine, Emily, wrote a response to my venting on my blog about my Airtran dismays. She even found a YouTube video of a guy citing his story of canceled flights and bad customer service – also from Airtran.

She made an excellent point about how social media has become a conduit for “venting” about problems, and how some companies have finally caught on and embraced this.

Recently I had an experience with Comcast’s social media customer service. I wrote a status update in Facebook about how I was confused that Comcast would lower my monthly bill if I added a phone line. This wasn’t a complaint, just a perplexed statement. I didn’t think too much of it until I received a Facebook message from a Comcast customer service representative:

Comcast Customer Service

My original statement was not a complaint, and I didn’t need to respond (at least about this issue), but I thought this move was so ingenious.

I have a friend who had issues with Comcast billing for the longest time and was unable to get any answers. He posted his stories on a blog dedicated to people who hated Comcast. Not too long after, he received an email from Comcast offering to help.

Comcast, notorious for poor customer service, finally started monitoring exactly where people vent about them the most: social networking sites.

I think it is also interesting to expand from her initial thesis of social media being a forum for venting, and look at how new technology combined with these social media tools has facilitated this process.

As I noted in my original post, I wrote that entry on my iPhone through the WordPress app. I was even able to take a photo on my phone, and include that in my post. All this while sitting at an airport bar (because of course, Airtran had delayed my flight.)

In the video she found, it looked like the man was shooting this clip while sitting at a gate of his cancelled flight. It is possible he even uploaded the video immediately, too.

Had either of us waited until we sat down in front of a computer, found internet, and recreated our rants, they may not have been so strong or so concise. Perhaps we may have even forgotten about it once we got to our destination.

While social media has allowed us to share thoughts more easily, technology now allows us to do so instantaneously, which turns out to be a very powerful thing.