The 6 Reasons Why People Use Foursquare

Foursquare continues to grow in registered users and daily check-ins, even as the location based services industry becomes increasingly crowded.

There is more and more focus being put on whether Foursquare can become mainstream. If Foursquare’s growth does continue, and it does break out of the early adopter crowd into a more mainstream audience, it will be because of it offers broad utility.

Instead of asking “Why would the average person check in?” we should ask the broader question of “What utility can Foursquare serve to the average person?” Even looking beyond check-ins, Foursquare actually has some great utility without ever having to check-in at all.

There are 6 main utilities that will drive people to become active users of Foursquare. As marketers, being aware of these driving forces helps us be more intelligent as we experiment with Foursquare. It gets to the heart of the consumer’s motivation.

1. Playing a Game

This is the hook for a lot of the early adopters of Foursquare, the game that is built into the service. You check-in and add locations for points, you compete for mayorships, you seek out badges. This is not a long-term, consistent utility for most users. However, the competition and changing landscapes of mayorships and badges bring a layer of “New” to the service, a constantly changing reward ecosystem that users can fall in and out of favor with users as it evolves.

2. Finding Friends

The check-in adds data to a social map. When you check-in you are telling your friends “I am here, you know, if it is relevant to you.” When you view where your friends currently are, Foursquare becomes a social planning utility that allows you a snapshot of where people you know currently are. Finding a group of friends, the best party in town, or even that you and a friend are eating lunch in the same place can become a very helpful tool for any user.

3. Making Announcements

Social networks have fully embraced the status update popularized on Twitter. Foursquare contextualizes status updates around a location and an event. From mundane endorsements like “The Turkey sandwich at Cafe X is quality” to the marketing savvy Brogan-esque “I just signed 4 copies of my book at the local Borders.” Simply using Foursquare as a status update tool adds another layer of data that can be very useful to an audience. And it makes it easier for someone to add that context.

4. Getting Suggestions

The single act of seeing a friend check-in to a location is a suggestion many times. Seeing where your friends go can be a great discovery too.
Foursquare tips are starting to get more attention, but are still the most powerful and most under-publicized part of the service. Restaurants like AJ Bombers have used tips to push certain products through encouraging their patrons to leave tips. To leave a “tip” is to tell the world “Hey, there is value here.” When you go to a new city, browsing the Foursquare tips centered around your current location can tell you anything from what salon to avoid to what restaurant has the best brunch or the best happy hour specials. When someone cares enough to leave a tip, the value of that suggestion is headed by other users.

5. Getting Rewards

The most talked about utility of Foursquare is the reward systems many businesses are adopting, especially restaurants. Mayor’s get a free drink or dinner. On your 10th check-in you get a free t-shirt or on your first check-in you get free chips and salsa, as Chili’s did. This may be the biggest utility for the average person. Money is a big mover in social media. If you can help people save money, they notice. They like it. They talk about it.

6. Recording History

Foursquare has a history of everywhere their users have checked-in. This is probably the least utilized of all the utilities to date, but has great potential. Our check-in history, or “footpath” as location based service Whrrl calls it, has tons of untapped value. As a resource to find places you have been in the past. To match up with other social networking activity to add location context to the photos we have taken or trips we took. Even as historical records of events. This utility is not a big use driver today, but could be a big part of Foursquare and other location based services in the future.

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