Why I’m quitting Foursquare

Once upon a time, a long time ago (January 2010 to be precise), there were two little Adelaide Foursquare users.

Their names were Michelle Prak and Tom Williamson.

These Adelaide dwellers joined Foursquare so early there wasn’t even an ‘Adelaide’ listed on the site. (So Michelle pretended to be a Melbourne dweller). There were no local friends and things felt quite lonely.

Prakky demonstrates iPhone use
Prakky demonstrates iPhone use

But I think it’s safe to say that the two of us, as social media consultants, were excited about testing out this new location-based tool, which was receiving a lot of buzz in the US. For my early thoughts, see the Foursquare blogpost I wrote in January 2009

Since then, I’ve been a daily Foursquare user. I’ve gained plenty of virtual badges, Foursquare friends, and I’ve won and lost Mayorships. I initiated Adelaide’s first Foursquare Swarm and had fun seeing some of  my best social media friends come together.

For more than a year, every time I visit a café or restaurant or shopping centre or bar .. I’ve taken my iPhone out of my handbag and dutifully ‘checked in’. This has become part of being Prakky.

And for what?

All this time, I’ve been waiting for Adelaide businesses to come on board. And aside from Tom’s drinks offers via The Hwy, I’ve gained no recognition from the businesses I’ve patronised.

What’s sustained my interest in Foursquare? A little bit of self branding. A little bit of virtual badge fun and competitive fun when it comes to Mayorships. And, as a social media consultant, I felt an obligation to embed  myself in Foursquare for the long term.

But enough’s enough.

De Luca’s closure should have rung the warning bells.

De Luca’s coffee shop was one Mayorship that was dear to me. During the working week, I bought a coffee-a-day from De Luca’s, a fledging new café, where I was on a first name basis with staff, where I could meet clients, where I knew the coffee tasted great.

Tussling over the De Luca’s Foursquare Mayorship with other CBD workers was fun. I held quiet hopes that one day De Luca’s would recognise social media tools like Foursquare, and that they’d hail the Mayor and offer me the occasional free coffee. Not too much to ask, no?

And then, one day I walked into De Luca’s for my daily latte – and the staff announced they were closing down. (Despite me checking in every day. It didn’t make an impact on their business one iota).

So .. deep breath. While it’s going to be hard for me, I’m going to say goodbye to Foursquare for a little while. I won’t delete my account. I won’t slam the door. But I will stop checking in.

And maybe one day, if Adelaide businesses start offering Foursquare incentives, or I see my friends using Foursquare to find each other through developments like this … Prakky might come back.

34 thoughts on “Why I’m quitting Foursquare

  1. I’ve been testing Foursquare and Gowalla around my area, and my preference was for Gowalla… even though it’s annoyingly American, there’s nothing for us Aussies. If it’s not in the US Gowalla thinks it doesn’t exist. I went to a local park and got a Raccoon badge!

    It was interesting to note that although a few places around here had been added by the, maybe, four users… that the local McDonalds, where teens congregate and do their SMSs, That McDonalds was not listed on Foursquare or Gowalla, and neither were larger, obvious places where you’d think someone would have got in first.

    While I’ve heard how Foursquare and Gowalla have taken off overseas, I feel that for whatever reason, Aussies just don’t like it, I’m not sure why.

  2. I no longer broadcast my checkins on Twitter (unless there’s something particularly funny/interesting to be said) and basically only use 4sq to keep track of my own whereabouts so that my bank account has an alibi. –> http://twitpic.com/39b6qd

    As anyone who goes to pubs and restaurants and junk food joints in the East End knows – I am reigning “Mayor” of many of Adelaide’s best locations, however that has never paid off one bit. Until last night – when the guys at Seven Stars brought out some free tapas in awe and recognition. http://foursquare.com/ashsimmonds/checkin/4d5e38579f67f04d59dd5dfb

    Still – after something like 50 visits, a $7 reward almost feels more insulting than nothing at all.

    Dunno – I’ll still keep using it for now, I also include a photo with every check-in so it kinda makes it a little more fun for others to see.

    I think that – like Twitter – the real value will come from a 3rd party finding a way to leverage it and make a legitimate service. Stay tuned… 😉

    1. Like to add one other thing – the number of duplicate/triplicate venues sucks the donkey’s fat one, i think we’re up to five Woolworths in Rundle Mall now.

  3. I have to agree that it is fun for about the first five seconds, gaining badges and earning mayorships, but then it falls flat. Where are the incentives, there is nothing. I recall borders had at one time offered 10% off if you checked in, but it must have been such a success they have not done so again. It makes me wonder, if it is not the business, but the people that are not willing to embrace social media incentives or 4sq (apart from the progressive few). How many people in adelaide really use 4sq enough to make it worth a business giving a discount? Incentives need to equal foot traffic, and I just don’t think this is happening in Adelaide and it’s a real sahme.

  4. From an ‘outsiders’ perspective (i.e. a non-Foursquare user), my impression of the service is that it’s very polarising. You either love it or you hate it. But then nerds are traditionally fairly private people! 🙂

    Foursquare is very spammy by nature and spam is quite jarring when it arrives in something as personal as one’s Twitter feed. As it’s not advertising or solicited tweets, its just adding noise. Same with other such services, like Gosimo.

    It’s the same reason why Twitter need to be so careful when it comes to monetising their service.

    The one exception to this is photos embedded in Foursquare check-ins. They add value to your feed and therefore allow all users (participants and viewers) to become involved. Although it’s still a lot of hassle to ‘engage’ with the 3rd party (Foursquare). It needs to be streamlined instead of an external addon.

    I’m not sure how the service can evolve much further in its current form. Because of it’s polarising nature, it’s harder for businesses to jump on board. At least, it hasn’t encouraged me to jump aboard! 🙂

    This is the advantage that Facebook Places has as it’s a service and not an addon to the Facebook platform. Businesses that are already invested in Facebook (especially ‘muggle biz’ – i.e. those that aren’t traditionally technosavvy) can easily leverage it.

    While Foursquare may have the right idea, they’ve got the wrong implementation. Maybe when they’ve got that sorted you’ll be able to claim your free coffees! 🙂

  5. i don’t know anyone else in bendigo that uses foursquare. i was able to become the mayor of a couple of cafes after juat a couple of visits.
    i don’t think businesses around here are ever likely to get on the foursquare bandwagon. some may, perhaps, use facebook places, but i will not be holding my breath on it. from what i can find very few businesses are using social media sites (at least the ones i would like to.) but bendigo is a backward in going forward.
    so, like you, i am wondering what the whole point of it is.

  6. I think Ash is correct. Third party leverage may do the trick, but why don’t 4sq have this as part of their model? Are they too Americo-centric? I am relatively new to 4sq and sticking with it for the moment as part of trying to stay aware/ involved in social media. Being the north side of 50 means my own age group tend to look at me like I am from the planet Zorb when I mention Twitter much less lesser known social media. Tried to show colleagues the power of following #tccarlos while at an all day national disaster meeting may have made some inroads but I am not convinced.
    4sq? I admit other than the game of collecting badges etc it seems of minimal value as yet. I will persist for a while as I would like to watch it’s evolutionary ascent or descent. Just not sure which it will be yet.
    Maybe something will get it to a tipping point?
    In the meantime I am very curious whether Prakky can really go “cold turkey”? Does social media use does trigger neuropeptide release and cause addiction? If so it would be an important piece of knowledge for social media-ers – hmm what is the noun? Back to you Prakky.

  7. I’m the only person in my large workplace I know who uses it, especially since Facebook checkins came in, which people embraced more quickly because it was a platform people were already familiar with and had a sense of trust in. But Facebook check in is not quite the same, it’s social, not a recommendation, and business owners don’t really have as much room for leveraging from it by providing deals. I’ve told a few coffee vendors in my time about it and their eyes light up at the possibilities but the majority of people are in the dark.

    I actually think it would have to be the big events around Adelaide that get the ball rolling for foursquare, not the businesses. There were 50,000 people at the soccer at Adelaide Oval last week, a bit of PR in advance with instructions for downloading the app and checking in, all the people there united under the one cause… An epic swarm would be great publicity, show your phone on the way out to get a free scarf or something… Know what I mean? Other business would see the potential for rewarding customers.

  8. I got my first reward!

    I was in the Oriental who actually have 4sq adverts on their screens.

    I checked-in and saw they had added a tip early last year: Get a free drink if you show this tip.

    I showed the tip, management was consulted, and I got a free drink. Obviously it doesn’t happen that often!

    I’ve never seen so many of my friends, who are not very phone savvy, trying to work out how to use 4sq!

    Only one succeeded. She got her free drink, along with a “cheeky bugger”.

    Clever management would see the potential there, we’ll see.

  9. Don’t blame you!

    I remember when Adelaide wasn’t a location too! We selected Melbourne and then not long after that Foursquare got us on board. And even before that I used Gowalla (which was a bit more fun with items you got from each checkin) and then even before that, Brightkite.

    I use it occasionally now – I guess if I’m out with friends who also use twitter I’ll check in, but the regular checking in to the shopping centre is a bit old these days.

  10. As a marketing strategist who spends a lot of time guiding small businesses through the social webn Foursquare has always generated the most eye rolls, compared to the rest of the web 2.0 suite. Like you, I have gone into Foursquare retirement. It was the lack of traction and, ironically, the buildup to your swarm that set my course away from the “game”. I don’t think we need to lament this false start for geo-location games, perhaps Aussies have spied the “emporer’s new clothes” aspect of this service and those of that ilk. I have faith though that cream always rises to the top. So if Foursquare has sustance for down under lifestyles it will bounce back.

    1. Thanks Steve. No, I won’t lament this ‘false start’ either. That’s why I’m not deleting my account … I’ll stay in a holding pattern and cross my fingers that 1) Foursquare will evolve further 2) businesses will come on board 3) the community will use it in innovative ways to positively impact our social connectivity.

  11. Some good points made.

    I’ve never seen the point of Foursquare or Gowalla but that’s just me. Via the updates on Twitter, it has allowed me to see those who live, work and play around me—@ashsimmonds et al—which was interesting for while until I became overly concerned for their livers. 🙂

    Occasionally I’ve checked in at various locations using the Facebook places function but lost interest when I found that I could check in to nearby locations from my couch. Seems pointless if you can game the system so easily.

    My guess is that Facebook will take over as it has such a huge membership to leverage. It also means that a business only has to have their Facebook page merged with their “place” and it’s becomes much easier to manage things like frequent visitors etc.

    Facebook’s approval of official pages also means that there’s less double up and the location is put back in control of the proprietor.

  12. Another concept is the combination of Q&A with local.

    To me, being able to ask locals questions has great potential and takes this basic check-in concept a bit closer to something useful.

    “what’s the best Mexican restaurant around here?”

    From the stuff I’ve seen, only one service supports Australia and they are unusable on a mobile (maybe I should tell them that!).

  13. Exactly. I’ve tried (not much) to get with the program, but really find it mostly pointless. Doesn’t help that I rarely go anywhere other than home and work!

    But this year our media tart at Adelaide Uni has claimed a bunch of locations around campus and the city, and expect to make use of them in some as yet unspecified ways. Should be interesting to watch.

    I think there are two largely untapped things of value: One is the potential of Tips to promote your business; you don’t have to leave it up to customers to write tips. The other is the to me obvious value of knowing where your people, e.g. Sales force, are at any time. The ability to simply check someone’s 4sq account to see where they’re at seems a valuable business tool.

  14. Here’s another thing… When someone follows me on Foursquare, there’s no real way to know who they are… they could be someone who follows on Facebook, but use a completely different username on Foursquare. there’s nowhere for a person to write “Hello mate, it’s me, so-n-so from wherever, I wonder if you’d mind if I followed you here too?” Generally I won’t allow many people to follow me on Fourquare unless I’m completely sure I know who they are, as Foursquare poses more security risks than Twitter.

    1. That’s a good point, Wolfie. I was often confused by who a Foursquare friend request came from; sometimes I could find out because they had a similar thumbnail pic to their Twitter pic, or I could track down their name. But it’s not always evident that they’re a friend from another realm!

  15. Yes! This is exactly why I have not and will not sign up for Foursquare.

    Perth users signed up under Melbourne too and my Twitter feed was filled with meaningless check ins. Businesses here have responded with the same tepidness as Adelaide. As a non-user of Foursquare I don’t see the point of it. I am convinced that some nerds, geeks and social media types use it to create an illusion that they are far more outgoing than what they really are in reality.

    1. Thanks Mags. I guess that’s another thing about Foursquare – how you then use it in relation to other social media platforms. Do you always send it to Twitter? Do you bother sending your checkin to Facebook? I never sent checkins to Facebook, but did send most to my Twitter feed. And in that case, I also felt compelled to add a comment where I could. I also feel I didn’t exploit new pics capability; but that would only have held my interest for a little while longer.

  16. Shocking news, Prakky, though I admit I think I checked into Yalumba once and that is the total of my Foursquare use. I don’t really want people to know where I am all the time, but I tend to be one of the more private social media folks around. I am sure location-based marketing will hit its stride eventually. One anecdote: I saw a sign on the counter of a Vietnamese food vendor at the Central Market touting their Facebook page. I got talking with the owner, a young-ish guy, about Foursquare as the next step. Nope. He’s waiting for Facebook Deals and already has his promos and coupons mapped out.

  17. I have never used it, didn’t really see any point to it, have always had a crappy phone and am always late to jump on bandwagons anyway (as are the businesses apparently)
    Will miss knowing when you are at Welland Plaza though, always had visions of dashing round there to meet you and steal your Mayor’s robe 😉

  18. I came to the same conclusion very early on while using foursquare. Why bother? What’s the point? I just thought it was a waste of time. But then again, I’m not the social media nut that you are, Prakky 🙂

  19. I started using Foursquare to get my head around it and to also see if it would be useful for the sites my work manages. So far I’ve had the same frustrating expereinces – little reward for loyalty. But I thought I’d stick with it and see how it went.

    Then when I went out to our sites, I realised that some of them were in places that most people wouldn’t even get phone coverage to enable them to check-in (and I’m talking Adelaide Hills here, as well as places like Kangaroo Island). So my plans are on hold for the moment.

    I’ll be interested to see the uptake of SCVNGR after the Fringe promotion.

    1. That’s another good point Sarah – not all sites get phone coverage! It all comes back to investigating what platforms can offer you (down to the tiniest detail). Thanks!

  20. I’ve had an idea,

    How about we try and get the businesses to recognise 4sq through the use of 4sq.

    I think the main problem is that they don’t know it exists, don’t get it and don’t know what they can do with it.

    Could we get a campaign going to encourage users to go to these businesses and ask them to start promos?

    Another angle would be to provide a campaign website that teaches businesses how to use 4sq as well as lists all the local ones that are running campaigns.

    1. You’re right, I went into a Thai restaurant here and they liked the idea, I added them to both Forsquare and Gowalla, it caught on very slightly, I was knocked off being the mayor at least. It seems that awareness of anything internet related is fairly low to most people unless it’s been on TV. There is a tendancy for people to feel that Telstra and Optus are the *only* internet providers out there. What is also a concern is that I feel that some people think the internet is “a bunch of products” flicking through junk mail confirms this when I see mobile plans with “free facebook and twitter”, this is disturbing because IF we should lose internet neutrality, a lot of people won’t notice or care… I’m sure all of us here would though.

    2. Thanks Tony. Agree that business doesn’t know it exists – and I have tried to spruik it to the small businesses I frequent. But in the end, I have other priorities and I don’t plan to add “Foursquare promotion” to the list. This is the role of Foursquare itself, and also business needs to take it on itself. Savvy businesses will always be on the look out for new and innovative ways to engage their customers.
      As part of my role as a social media consultant, I do mention Foursquare where relevant. But that’s as far as I’ll go …

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