Facebook Deals and Foursquare – what’s happening?

I’m predicting the death of Foursquare by the end of this year.

In January I held my own Foursquare experiment and I checked-in everywhere I visited for four weeks. This gave me both the user’s perspective and better understanding for its potential for business. Click here to read the user’s perspective.

Reasons for the experiment were

  • People were talking about Foursquare, but I didn’t know anyone that was using it
  • The ‘check-in to Foursquare here’ sticker just wasn’t visible in the places I was spending money (consumer and business)
  • Facebook launched ‘Deals’ in the USA and I predicted it would arrive in the UK by the end of January to mid February (it arrived on 31 January)
  • I’m in marketing and love to know about the latest applications for business

Just in case you’re not familiar with Foursquare, you visit a venue (shop, restaurant, bar, office) and check-in using a smart phone. The most loyal customer (measured by volume of check-ins) is promoted to the Mayor and in theory gains a reward such as a free coffee, free pizza on Wednesdays or 10% off.

So where is foursquare now?

The friends who started using it quickly tired of logging into a new application, plus Facebook. Their friends equally tired of seeing constant check-ins, and the novelty of being the mayor with no reward soon faded.

It’s about numbers

30 million people in the UK actively use Facebook every month (source: David Parfect, UK Sales Manager, Facebook, March 2011) of which 50% do so on a daily basis and the average Facebook user has 135 friends.

If I pop to the hairdressers, drop in to Waitrose supermarket on the way home, collect some dry cleaning or grab a pizza for friends and on arrival check in on Facebook, I can share with my 100 friends and 4 make a comment, the check-in is potentially seen by up to 540 people and I have fewer friends than the average user. If I do not use Facebook, only those directly involved with the transaction (shop staff) are aware.

Word of mouth marketing is recognised as a powerful way to promote products and services. Social media marketing delivers word of mouth, but on a much larger scale.

On Foursquare, so few of my friends were using it that my check-ins were only seen by 5 or 6 people. When I connected my Facebook and Foursquare accounts, my friends became bored as there was little commentary, just ‘Annmarie has just checked-in to Debenhams in Oxford Street’. I could add comments, but it wasn’t easy and I could even check-in without getting out of my car, or when walking in the area. In fact until recently I was the mayor of Dominos Pizza in a district of Birmingham although I’d never gone into the store. This isn’t about brand loyalty, it’s about playing a game.

It’s about content

By contrast a check-in via Facebook is richer. When you check-in to a venue there is a good chance that it’s already populated with more information, about its history, what’s on offer or local data, such as a recent visit to Wolverhampton Wanderers where the entire history of the club was visible.

Foursquare was being trialled by advanced thinking companies like Debenhams and now it seems, along with Alton Towers, Argos, Yo Sushi and Mazda, they’re also using (possibly switching?) Facebook Deals.

It’s about engaging the companies

Facebook Deals is making it easy for companies to connect, take advantage of offers and is keen to expand its UK case study base. Foursquare’s profile amongst the business community is much lower. I speak to groups of businesses on a regular basis and few have heard of Foursquare. Equally I am the mayor of a small sandwich shop in Warwickshire and they are oblivious to the potential benefits and impact on their business.

If you contact Foursquare to amend a venue location, the registration process is not straightforward. Part of this involves waiting for a code to arrive in the mail from the USA. Overall as a business user, Foursquare is clunky.

It’s about Ease of Use

Facebook Deals uses an open API (application programming interface) so developers can integrate it into their applications. This makes it easy to use and simple to integrate into existing business processes.

Worldwide Foursquare has 7.5 million users, Facebook has 500 million. Those on Facebook are already familiar with how it works, experienced in downloading games, sending messages to friends and uploading photos, there is nothing for users to learn with Facebook. No new tools, no new profiles to upload, no statuses to change.

It’s about business branding

Foursquare doesn’t provide much of a company page, its just about the location with few other details. Facebook has already established company pages which evolved earlier this year (Click here for info on the changes) to enable businesses to use an open programming language to develop and enrich their pages.

Facebook has been around for 7 years, Foursquare for 2, but Facebook has come of age and understands how to attract business users.

Do you Facebook and / or Foursquare? What’s your view? Can Foursquare make that leap into 2012 or will it stay in the little league? Let me know what you think! Best answer before 29 April 2011 will win a copy of Quick Win Digital Marketing!

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