Note: This was originally posted on January 23, 2010, on DanielWaldman.com.
Earlier this week, Mashable.com declared that Foursquare is the new Twitter. While I love the game aspects of the popular iPhone app, and I definitely see the benefit for venues and other organizations, I am highly suspect of Foursquare’s ability to reach into the mainstream the way Facebook and Twitter have. Here’s why:
The size of your network doesn’t matter.
While we like to think that social media is more about quantity than quality, the size of a network can greatly affect the usefulness of that network. In other words, the more people that are part of your network, in theory, the more resources you have. It’s true that networks like Twitter can get overwhelming after your network reaches a certain size, yet tools such as clients and groups can help you focus on what’s most important to you. At this time, having more connections on Foursquare does not improve the quality of your network and in fact can make it less useful (think about a busy Saturday night where people are checking in left and right; and if you’re competing for points, well, you just have more people to compete against). Additionally, there’s no point in expanding your network beyond people you personally know.
Communication is a one-way street.
Clearly, one of the most powerful aspects of FB and Twitter are the ability to communicate with people both publicly and privately. Two-way communication is what makes them powerful PR tools for businesses, and allows people to engage each other. At this time, no such functionality exists for Foursquare. Maybe it’s coming in the future, and it’s great if it is. For now, if a friend checks in somewhere and I want to say something to them, I cannot do it via Foursquare. I can if they broadcast it on Twitter also, but that means I have to actually find their tweet to respond.
What happens when the game gets old?
O.k. so collecting badges and mayorships is kinda fun. There’s a bit of a thrill when you get one, as well as when you get extra points for adding a new location. I don’t know about others, but this gets kind of old after a while. Granted, I’m not a bar-hopping socialite, so maybe my experience is quite different than others’ experiences. That said, what happens when users get tired of competing with their friends who do go out constantly?
I may be being a Debbie Downer here, but as a social network, Foursquare has some major holes in it. I’m sure Foursquare is developing a lot of groovy features that add value not just for venues, but also for users. And until then, Foursquare will remain a game that people like to play, but may wear out after a time.