For the past several months, I’ve struggled to cope with an embattled relationship with the location-based social app Foursquare.
I’ve resisted the urge to flood my Facebook and Twitter timeline with useless check-ins to the gym or the office. Initially, becoming the mayor of my favorite restaurant and earning badges for frequent check-ins was enjoyable and rewarding. I couldn’t get enough, and I simply ignored those who felt the need to bash my affinity for Foursquare.
Of course, that’s one of the inherent challenges for the app. What’s the point? The thrill of checking in dozens of times at the local diner (or gas station) loses its luster after a while. It did for me, at least.
Monday, however, I read an article from Fast Company that detailed how Foursquare is finally getting serious about what it really has to offer, making its Explore feature available to both registered and non-registered users at the redesigned Foursquare.com. Now a search bar is featured prominently on the Foursquare homepage.
Courtesy of Foursquare.com
While it’s certainly a ploy to attract more people to join its loyal, 25 million-plus users (as well as more than one million businesses), Foursquare is set to leverage itself as more of a relevant and purposeful local search tool instead of a “gamified” social check-in service.
Foursquare has continuously sought ways to tweak and develop its services, with the Explore feature serving as the centerpiece of a serious move to become more of a guide than a game. Now that Foursquare’s personalized recommendations and local search is available to non-registered users, businesses and individuals that have ignored the service in the past would be wise to take advantage of the platform.
For what it’s worth
Jeff Bullas wrote back in February that Foursquare would benefit retailers and businesses when it transitioned from a novelty to a “meaningful commerce platform.”
“One of the challenges is to get people to think about Foursquare less as points and badges and more about local search and discovery,” Foursquare co-founder and CEO Dennis Crowley told GigaOM’s Ryan Kim. “We really see Foursquare as reinventing ourselves with local search and recommendations. We’ve been telling users for a long time and now we can tell the same story and illustrate it for folks.”
This overhaul began back in December 2011, when Foursquare unveiled the Explore feature, an exclusive facet of the service that provides tailored recommendations for users based on their check-ins and their friends’ check-ins. But according to Foursquare, as a result of nearly three billion check-ins and 30 million tips worth of data, recommendations can still be made to those who haven’t signed up or checked-in—such as suggesting what’s new and trending and what’s popular on a certain day of the week.
This puts Foursquare in a better position to compete with sites like Bing, Google and Yelp in addition to offering customized suggestions to its 25 million users—all the reasoning for businesses to claim their venues on Foursquare. According to Search Engine Land, Yelp boasts 78 million unique monthly visitors aside from its 30 million reviews.
Yelp recently updated is mobile app, but its website is cluttered and unorganized in comparison to Foursquare’s. Foursquare’s homepage is visually appealing for first-time users and its social capabilities allow you to share—albeit somewhat annoying—check-ins and connect with friends. And, obviously, if you do have a Foursquare account, you wouldn’t merely discover the best venues in town, but you’d receive personalized tips, recommendations and frequent incentives to check-in.
Businesses will be noticed on Foursquare based on their popularity, number of check-ins and location, rather than reviews and content. Potential customers can discover what they’re looking for by conducting basic searches for things such as “pizza” or “hardware store.” Foursquare recently partnered with Open Table so that users can easily make reservations their smartphones as well.
This will also open up the likely opportunity for Foursquare to finally cash in. Knowing the number of people using the services—both registered and non-registered—businesses are more apt to pay for “promoted updates.”
More about discovery, less about badges
According to Fast Company, 20 percent of people who search for places using the Explore feature end up checking-in at a suggested spot within three days of the search. Furthermore, its developers are experimenting with several other “non-social signals” so Foursquare can be better utilized by those without an account, friends or check-in history. Slowly but surely Foursquare is flashing signs of its awesome potential.
While it’s still beneficial to sign up (you’ll get additional tailored filters and access to the mobile application—and, of course, points and badges!), there are plenty of reasons to use Foursquare as a sufficient local search tool.
Are there any businesses owners out there that are more interested in Foursquare now that it’s available to everyone? Did this simple yet significant change prompt you to claim your venue?