Jon Evan’s TechCrunch post Dear Foursquare, Gowalla: Please Let’s Stop Pretending This Is Fun pretty much sums up the way I feel about Foursquare these days.
… Because they’re not giving us any good reason to use them. Look at their web sites. Gowalla proclaims, “Discover the extraordinary in the world around you.” Foursquare says, “Unlock your city.” To which I say: “Oh, come on“ — and it seems I speak for approximately 96% (formerly 95%) of the population. I have no interest in enlisting in a virtual scavenger hunt, or unlocking merit badges — what is this, the Cub Scouts? — or becoming the narcissistic “Mayor” of my local coffee shop. Thanks for the offer, but I’m afraid I already have some semblance of a life.
… If they want to reach the majority who don’t care about making it to Mayor, they need to abandon their pretense of fun, stop pussyfooting around with silly slogans, and make their value proposition stark, simple, and profoundly unsexy: “Check in and get coupons.”
Like Jon, I’m an early adopter. I started checking-in to my favorite eateries and coffee shops long before Foursquare was mainstream (my Foursquare profile) and Facebook launched their answer to Foursquare – Facebook Places. Initially, it was just about staying current with trends in the industry and satisfying my curiosity. Eventually, the game mechanics caught on and I found myself looking forward to things like the Superstar badge. Today, I find myself wondering why I even bother.
Foursquare really isn’t providing me with any value. It doesn’t help me connect with my friends, too few people in my social circle use it for it to be interesting on that front. It isn’t saving me money, here in Eugene Oregon there are few vendors who even know what it is. I spent ten minutes trying to explain the importance of my Mayorship status to the owner of my favorite Indian restaurant. I left that experience feeling a little embarrassed – I think he thought I was crazy – no discount, and no pat on the back for the Mayor. What am I getting out of this? I’m done with thinking badges are cool – well, mostly.
I expected Foursquare to pick up the pace after they closed the $20 million Series B round with Union Square Ventures, O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, and Andreessen Horowitz. I’ve seen few new features, and even fewer business development deals since they put the money in their coffers? What are they using the money for? Is Foursquare adrift? Did Facebook Places pull the wind from their sails?
I’ve used Facebook Places and I expect I’ll start using it more in the future. Facebook Places is already connected to my social circle and Facebook Deals (announcement) might just save me a few bucks. Right off the bat, Facebook’s value proposition is stronger.
If I were at the helm of Foursquare I’d be focusing all of my resources on doing as many national discount deals as possible. I’d make it supper easy for smaller vendors to claim their businesses and create special offers for their customers. I’d work to make sure Foursquare vendor profiles are well ranked in search results. Create the clear value proposition – and then make it easy for everyone to get a piece of it. If Foursquare can’t start providing their users with some value – they’re done.
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