Facebook Places Hasn’t Cut Into My foursquare Usage – Some Thoughts

In an earlier blog post, I speculated a bit about what Facebook Places might ultimately mean for foursquare. It’s clear to me that Facebook is putting a lot of attention on its Places product, both in terms of the product itself and the business relationship between places and national and local merchants. They seem to be serious about competing with foursquare and they might ultimately win. This post isn’t about who has a better business model or who’s likely to win. I’ve been trying to get into Places more and it hasn’t happened – just thought I’d share some of my thoughts on why I continue to like using foursquare and why Places hasn’t supplanted it for me just yet.

As a matter of background, here’s my foursquare usage by the numbers:
-I joined FourSquare on March 14, 2009, or about 607 days ago at the time of this post
-To date, I’ve had 1,766 checkins, or almost 3 per day. My check-ins tend to come in bunches, so that 3 per day average is not really indicative of my usage pattern.
-I’ve unlocked 25 badges and left about 15 tips at places I’ve visited

I would describe myself as an active user of Foursquare and a reasonably enthusiastic one. I don’t know that Facebook was targeting people like me with Places – there are far more people who are on Facebook and not using foursquare to be won than there are people on foursquare for Facebook to steal. That’s the opportunity for both companies – convert the large swath of people who aren’t using either service. Below are a few reasons why I haven’t dropped foursquare for Facebook Places:

1. I use foursquare like I use Twitter – I don’t want to syndicate everything to Facebook. I consider my usage of foursquare and Twitter to be very similar. I’m very chatty on both services and generate a lot of stuff (not all of it interesting). I just don’t believe my friends want to see my every check-in in the same way that I don’t think they want to see every tweet. If I have a check-in that I think is particularly cool or noteworthy, I will syndicate it to Twitter or Facebook. And I have noticed that cool check-ins syndicated to Facebook from foursquare do generate comments, likes, etc. But unleashing the firehose of 3-4 check-ins per day and many more than that when I’m in a new place would probably feel like noise on Facebook.

2. I am more liberal with my Facebook friend requests than I am with my foursquare friend requests. Maybe it’s because I’m in my 30s, but I simply don’t want everyone I know to know where I am at all times. So I’m actually pretty picky with accepting foursquare requests. Everyone in my social graph on foursquare is a real person I actually know – that’s not necessarily the case on Facebook. The people on my foursquare graph are largely people I know well and who also use the service – it’s safe for me to assume that they’re both open to publishing their own location data as well as finding mine interesting. Because my foursquare network is smaller and purpose-selected for sharing location data, I don’t have to worry about check-ins being spammy or noisy – that’s what those people are there to see / hear / generate.

3. I’m not actually looking to “get anything” out of my checkins – I just like it and think it’s cool to both share where I’ve been and keep track of it myself. I’ve seen some compelling articles about how deals, discounts, prizes, or the “give me something for checking in” motivation will be what makes customers actually use a service here. I’m not motivated by that stuff. No check-in product out there can claim to have invented loyalty programs – businesses have been thinking about how to motivate customer loyalty for a long time and check-ins are just one other way to measure visit frequency. And I don’t check in to get free stuff most of the time – I think of it more as a nice reward or bonus. Check-ins are for entertainment for me and most entertainment products don’t save me money, they cost me money. The whole coupons / rewards motivation and why I’m not completely sold on that warrants its own post.

4. Foursquare works fine and I see no reason to switch. This goes in the “duh” category. I just like the product and even a reasonably compelling substitute in Facebook Places isn’t sufficiently compelling to make me switch. It just doesn’t fit my use case or usage patterns.

Anyway, I know I’m probably a “power user” of foursquare by most accounts, so my experience should be viewed through that lens. However, if you used to use foursquare and have switched to Facebook Places, I’d be curious to hear why. Comments are open as always.

  • @lasVegasTodd

    I agree Charles. I’m happy with Foursquare as well and although I have 750 FB friends only about 15 on FS. Maybe that’s why we don’t want to use Places. We want to limit our checkin location to a more intimate group.

  • Peter

    Facebook is about to be punked by “the next facebook.” It’s game over Zuckerberg.nnhttp://smartstartup.typepad.com/my_weblog/2010/11/how-to-raise-startup-capital-or-not.htmln

  • http://stevepoland.com/about Steve Poland

    Charles — you wrote this post 3 months ago. I just came across it [after seeing @jeff give you a shout on twitter]. Curious if you’ve changed any position since 3 months ago? If anything, I have definitely strengthened with foursquare — I was at sxsw when it blew up, i brought it back home [buffalo, ny], and got a couple friends on it. Eventually I found myself using it on vacation in NYC, SF, etc — for the awesome restaurant tips, but I wasn’t using it much in Buffalo anymore [lack of users; lack of friends]. But now my friends are all on there, so I’m much more committed now.nnI don’t know any friends really using Facebook Places, which is the shocker to me.. I thought for sure the late adopters would go immediately to Facebook Places, because at the time, they still weren’t using Foursquare.nnI’m thinking Foursquare is the winner. Just like Twitter beat out Facebook by doing the simple one thing. Just crazy, because everyone knows Facebook is the 900 lb gorilla.. but it takes more than that.

  • http://www.charleshudson.net chudson

    Steve,rnrnThanks for the detailed comment – I love to hear from people who stumble upon my posts. I haven’t really changed my position. I don’t really use Facebook Places unless I’m checking into a place that I think the vast majority of my FB social graph will find interesting. That’s a small number of checkins, largely tied to international travel. rnrnI’m still a very heavy foursquare user. But you know what I’ve noticed? I see more and more people using Facebook Places in my feed. Now this could be due to a number of things. One, Facebook controls the feed algorithm and they might be seeing that FB Places check-ins generate lots of feed activity. Or they might be trying to create the perception that all of my friends are using FB Places by showing lots of check-ins in my feed.rnrnThe hardest thing for me to get my head around is how to think about the reach of Facebook Places. What does it mean when one person checks in and tags 8 other people who are there? Does it really mean that all of those 9 people are active Facebook Places users? I don’t think so, but it sure does expose a lot of people to the service. It’s very similar to photo tagging – a small number of active taggers can bring a large chunk of the graph into contact with the Facebook Places service.rnrnOverall, I do think that Facebook Places will draw in an audience that foursquare hasn’t been able to attract. But I don’t think that will stop heavy to moderate foursquare users from continuing to embrace the service.

  • http://twitter.com/hi5at5 Jonathan Lee

    bit late to the game here. just read this. great post charles! i feel the same way about foursquare check-ins vs facebook check-ins and commented about it in my blog in response to someone’s question on formspring (www.jonathanlee.me). i especially agree with your point that you like to keep things separate. in fact, I think most people prefer it that way. Because I think people want a unique experience for this relatively new social vertical, i think foursquare is still going to lead the way in check-ins. Even though Facebook is big and you can do many things with it, it just wasnu2019t designed for check-ins imho.