I’ve been slowly integrating more social media tools into my life. This experience has not been without hiccups, and has given me pause on more than one occasion. Today, however, I realized the inequality of the social media relationship.
In March, while attending SXSW, I joined Foursquare. Foursquare has been interesting, and I’ve done a decent job of keeping it updated. The fact that I’m not the mayor of anywhere is besides the point. What’s important here is that while I’m out traipsing around and “checking in,” the people behind Foursquare are leveraging this data to create a company worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
How? It’s actually quite simple. By allowing thousands and thousands of people to run around, making friends and checking in, Foursquare is developing a giant, accurate, and near-realtime database of where people are going, what people like, and who people know. This data is incredibly valuable to many different groups – business owners, advertisers, government agencies, etc. All that Foursquare has to do is keep people checking in, and the value will continue to grow.
So, as you and I continue to pour added value into Foursquare, what’s in it for us? As users, we get to know where our friends our, new versions of Foursquare allow us to see what venues are “trending now” – which can be handy if you’re looking for the hottest bar in any given neighborhood, and – of course, there are always more badges and mayorships to earn (just yesterday I finally earned my Barista Badge).
Starbucks is planning to roll out more Foursquare-related initiatives in the near future. But is that enough value for Foursquare users to keep coming back? So far, it seems so.
Don’t get me wrong here, there is value in Foursquare and in the other location-based services. The balance, however, is more than a little lopsided.
Business Insider recently covered this idea, as well. Their thinking is that Foursquare, Gowalla, and other location-based services will grow to incorporate open APIs, much like Twitter:
A year from now, you’ll be able to sort to quickly see which specific bars, restaurants, and hotels are the hottest right now inside of major cities; based on check-ins and chatter.
This may be possible in a year, but I’m still not convinced that this list of hotness will be that valuable to individual users. We have trending and topic capabilities for Twitter now, and it’s dominated by a 16 year-old Canadian R&B singer with some fancy hair. I’m not convinced that these capabilities in Foursquare will provide significantly different results. What do you think? Is there a demand for these capabilities? Will you use them? If so, how?