Sunday, February 21, 2010

Foursquare and 20 minutes ago: the hottest new social-networking app

I'll take the Douchebag badge to block, foursquare.

Whenever I want to know what the next big thing in social media will be, I go for drinks with CreComm grad and ICUC business development manager Dustin Plett.

From now on, I'll be checking in on my iPhone when we do.

Last week, Dustin forced me at gunpoint (OK, camerapoint) to download foursquare, a new smartphone app that "gives you and your friends new ways of exploring your city."

Like any new social-networking tool, my first reaction was, "What the hell is this piece of junk?"

However, since Dustin recommended it to me, I've discovered that there may be more to it than what first meets the eye.

In the last week alone, I've come across about 20 references to the app in the media and many more in ordinary, day-to-day conversations, from the New York Times singing its praises as a restaurant finder to Jolene Olive talking about its potential for the Downtown Winnipeg Biz.

So, what the hell is this thing?

Using the app, you check in wherever you go; when you check in, you get recommendations left by other users and you can leave recommendations yourself.

So, if you "check in" at Spuntino Cafe on Stafford and Grosvenor, you can find out that Kenton Larsen says the "Bread rolls are incredible. And the Pollo al Limone is unreal."

As you and your foursquare friends check in, you start learning where they hang out the most, as they do with you. So I know that my only foursquare friend, CreComm grad Jenny H., ate at Kawaii Crepe in Osborne Village last night at 7:15 p.m. and didn't invite me. Lucky for her on both counts!

Your consumption is rewarded by earning badges: if you find a new place in the neighborhood, you get five points. Multiple visits to one location in one evening? Two points.

Bad behavior is also rewarded: check in to a restaurant after 3 a.m. on a school night, and you earn the "school night badge." Go to places where "douchebags" are known to frequent and, yes, you earn the "douchebag badge."

If you show up more often at one place than anyone else, you become the foursquare "mayor" of that location. So, Eric L., Mayor of Starbucks on Corydon, I salute you.

The untapped potential

So, it's just another goofball way to connect with friends, earn useless points, and express your opinions in a medium flooded with them, right?

Maybe, maybe not. The untapped potential for the app is that local businesses can encourage repeat customers by rewarding their most-frequent users. So, a free Grande Chai Latte to Eric L, the Mayor of Starbucks on Corydon!

Foursquare has just started making these "specials" public on its app and website, and is promising a breakdown of demographic charts, graphs, and data to participating businesses in the near future.

Foursquare and 20 blocks around downtown Winnipeg

I can see a number of ways the Downtown Winnipeg Biz and its members could use this app to encourage shopping downtown among the young and hip, a demographic prone to having a smartphone and online friends, listening to what they say, and spending, spending, spending. Let's party!

Some potential applications:

1. Using foursquare as a promotional tool to reward loyal clientele and/or reach out to early adopters by encouraging competitions for things like "mayor of Earls" or $2 off to anyone who shows the server that they are "checking in" on foursquare and leaving feedback.

2. For targeted ads or location-based coupons. Go shopping at Portage Place and - voila - a coupon pops up on your phone for a buy-one, get-one-free discount at the IMAX.

3. Sponsoring a badge or mayorship (foursquare itself has suggested that it would be open to such a scheme). Check in the most at downtown locations and you could be awarded the mayor of downtown Winnipeg!

4. Linking foursquare promotions through the Downtown Biz's Twitter site. Yep, you can already link your Twitter account with foursquare for maximum promotional awesomeness.

5. Promote the use of foursquare to people while they walk around downtown. As the NY Times points out, the app turns faceless buildings into "voice, personality, opinion."

6. Use foursquare's location data to measure and influence consumer behavior.

So, what are you waiting for? Download the app, and I'll meet you at Spuntino for our free drinks.

I hear that the Pollo al Limone is impeccable.

The foursquare app finds a comfortable place 'tween USA Today and Whiteboard on my iPhone.


  1. That sounds amazing. Seriously.

    And the bread at Spuntino is pure joy in carbohydrate form.

  2. Foursquare can also be used in conjunction with this website:

  3. I grabbed that because my homie DJ Co-op is an avid, but I haven't used it yet. I mean, there are times when I don't want folks to find me, y'know?

  4. "Please rob me" is coming up in conversation more and more as well. But it was Bob Dylan who once said, "When you ain't got nothin', you got nothin' to lose!"

    Words to live by!

  5. I really do think it's a neat concept, but as it is, I don't like to post my whereabouts online as I've always figured it made things a bit too easy for crooks.

    Plus, who am I kidding, all my posts would be "Sam has checked in at 'her kitchen' or 'bedroom'". I don't go anywhere!

  6. Kenton, the next time I go on a date on Saturday night, I'll be sure to call you to chaperone.

    Note to all: "Please Rob Me" only applies when you're uncool enough to "check in" at your place of residence AND you make your check-ins public. As with the majority of social networking applications, there are levels of security built in of which one can chose to avail oneself. Also, one can chose not to be an idiot.

  7. I'm excited to join in this up and coming app when I got an iPhone.

    My new life goal is to become the Mayor McCheese of the McDonald's on Nairn Avenue.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.