It is a big call, I know. I’m writing off what some gurus call the biggest revolution to social media since Twitter. But I think most New Zealanders using location-based social such as Foursquare are wasting their time.
The concept is not a new one. People have been under the mistaken impression that strangers are fascinated by them for a while now, at least since Twitter went big in the autumn of 2010.
Back in 2009, Foursquare was launched by a couple of New Yorkers, mostly as a means to help tourists explore the city, bookmarking venues for other users, and leaving behind helpful tips and tricks. Later, businesses came on board, offering specials and discounts for regular checker-inners.
From tourist trips to rewards, it all sounded pretty good, and as more Foursquarers signed up, users were able to see nearby friends and meet up for impromptu get-togethers.
So if the origin of Foursquare is good, when did it jump the shark?
Foursquare got hijacked by virtual graffiti artists. Marketers left faux tips: “oh hai, you’re at so-and-so’s store, but such-and-such is HEAPS better!”; Check in locations became more obscure “oh hai, I’m at Billy’s house!”; and then the dreaded cross-platform autoposts started “oh hai, I’m at so-and-sos and look! I just got a badge for most annoying autopost!”
Now wheretheladies.at lets you track nearby female’s Foursquare logins – a perfect app for anyone hoping to stalk a few women in the course of their day.
Twitter user @bsidebeats said that his first impression of location-based social was that it was full of “narcissistic, useless info. But that was also my first impression of twitter, so…?”
The man has a point.
Users started checking into their supermarkets, a state highway in the middle of nowhere, an impossible location up top an unclimbable mountain. They would walk through malls, checking into each store they passed. They shared this information on Twitter and Facebook. A lot. As Twitter user @al_nz says, the autoposting is a waste of time. “Clutters my feed up. Unless you’re somewhere cool or interesting, not gonna give a shit”
As New Zealand businesses evaluate if Foursquare will replace their coffee cards, users have to ask themselves if messaging annoying, unpaid endorsements for services is worth it.
Some users say Foursquare is the worst part of Twitter.
“Anything that contains Foursquare is an instant turnoff. Its hands down the most annoying part of Twitter.” @zactommo notes.
Do I think location-based social media is a valuable tool? Not for most people. Not right now. Will it be in the future? Let’s get honest: Foursquare is reasonably parasidic and relies on users spamming out into other social platforms to keep it alive – annoying the very users they are trying to convert. Uptake rates, although steady and at around 5 million people, are still very small. Foursquare say they’re signing up a million new users each month. With the incoming Facebook Places, it may become more mainstream, but there’s a fair bit for us Kiwis to sort out before then.
NZ smartphone uptake, mobile data rates, business buy-in, and a cultural shift need to happen first.
I recently ran a social media poll, and asked if location-based social media was all it was cracked up to be. The vote was split. Although slightly more people were passionately opposed to using it, a similar amount rated it “okay” or better.
A quick crowdsourcing tweet unleashed a world of hate for geo. There was, however, one voice who stood up for Foursquare.
@enzedchik tweeted that their “outbound sales team use it as valued work tool. Knowing where the team are is helpful & generates fun competition on leaderboard!”
She says Foursquare helps her keep track of when a workmate is near a cafe.
“It helps me know when to ‘casually’ put in a request for coffee delivery!”
And I suppose that is getting back to the heart of Foursquare. A heart we seem to have lost along the way.