Posted in: facebook, foursquare, social networking, twitter, web20

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.