Foursquare : Target Ads for the business and the customer

Foursquare, according to its website, “…is a technology company that uses location intelligence to build meaningful consumer experiences and business solutions. We have two mobile apps: Foursquare and Swarm, and a suite of enterprise and advertising tools.”

Foursquare enables a user to search for restaurants or experiences using the app, and you can save experiences you want to have so that you don’t forget.  It begins to “know” your interests, creating suggestions.  There are user reviews of the places that appear in the results.  It advertises – “Foursquare is your ultimate city guide, in your pocket. Find the best places to eat, drink, shop, or visit — in any city in the world. Access over 60 million short reviews from local experts. Traveling or looking to discover new places nearby? Get the free Android app today.”2

“Every search is tailored to your tastes, your past ratings, and picks from friends and experts you trust.”

What is Swarm and why is it mentioned as a part of Foursquare?  Swarm has taken what used to be part of Foursquare and made it its own app.  The reason is when they were both together, user feedback made it apparent that there needed to be two separate apps – one for locating friends and checking in, and one looking for places to visit.4

It has been relatively successful as a social media app, due in part to its founders willingness to listen to its users and address their feedback by improving the app based on their experiences.  Those who use the app feel it has been effective at social media marketing, given the platform places ads from local businesses so that those who are nearby will be able to check out a local business.

Despite its current success, Dennis Crowley, “…is now focused on signing discount deals with a plethora of restaurants, shops and entertainment venues around the world. Foursquare may have held its niche audience’s attention for the last 16 months, but its co-founder knows he needs to reinvigorate the app’s features and keep adding incentives to keep his users happy and inspired to keep ‘checking-in’ all over the place. 5

Harvard Business School students were presented with several questions, one being:

1) Why did Foursquare succeed as compared to the same founder (Dennis) in a similar venture (Dodgeball) in a different era and as compared to other teams pursuing LBS services in the same era?

“The students concluded that the context around a venture matters tremendously – that smart phones, the explosion of apps and social networking all were important enablers that allowed Foursquare to succeed at this particular moment in time. At the same time, the Foursquare team was incredibly skilled at applying lean start-up best practices, specifically:

  • Product-obsessed founders: both Dennis and Naveen were consumed with the product. Always interacting with users in bars and over Twitter, thinking less about strategy, analytics and monetization and focusing more on a great user experience.
  • Hunch-driven: they had deep domain knowledge and didn’t need outside studies or market research to guide their prioritization. One of the key takeaways that both Charlie and Andrew emphasized to the students was to be power users in whatever area of focus they choose to develop those instincts.
  • Minimum viable product: they didn’t wait years and years to perfect the product but instead got it out there to solicit user feedback.
  • Modest burn:  the company only raised $1.35 million in its series A financing and kept the burn rate at less than $100k per month to make he money last.  Dennis wrote a great post at the time of the financing that showed just how product obsessed he was, even after taking the seed money. There’s no bravado or BS – just a list of the great features they’re going to roll out as a result of having the extra capital.”6

My experience with Foursquare is limited, as I was never a fan of the original check in theory of success.  My GPS and Google can each give me user feedback, so adding another app just didn’t interest me.




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