Mobile Apps

Foursquare Tells Users Where to Go

Foursquare has released a fully made-over version of its geolocation app.

“They told me it was a byproduct of everything they learned over the past three years,” Greg Sterling, senior analyst at Opus Research, told TechNewsWorld.

“They wanted to create a better experience and wanted to make it more acceptable to people who were not very active users, he added.

“All technology evolves,” Lon Safko, a social media entrepreneur, told TechNewsWorld. “This is the next Foursquare evolution.”

Move Over, Indy Jones

The Foursquare app’s main feature — its Explore function — now suggests where users may want to go, and the places their friends are. It offers other customized suggestions based on check-ins by the user, the user’s friends and the Foursquare community at large. Search results on Explore are also personalized based on previous check-in data.

Users can also browse popular categories with Explore or search on a specific subject. The results will again be customized based on where the user, the user’s friends and people with similar tastes have checked in.

Foursquare also revamped its app’s Friends tab, adding huge swipeable photos as well as lists, tips and places a user’s friends have saved. Further, the ability to “like” and comment on activity has been added.

“The best thing about the new Foursquare is the Explore function, which shows off the real power in this particular social network — the ability to combine location-based services and real-time recommendations from users,” Renay San Miguel, chief content officer at social media marketing firm Splash Media, told TechNewsWorld.

“The Explore section is very Timeline-like with its wider photos and ability to ‘like’ items in the feed,” he added, referring to the Timeline feature found on Facebook.

The addition of the ‘like’ feature might raise the question of what took Foursquare so long to include it, but “this kind of features takes a great deal of time and financial resources to develop, test and implement,” Safko said. “The new Foursquare features were never thought of as part of the original architecture.”

A Foursquare spokesperson was not immediately available to provide further details.

Taking on the Enemy

The “social local mobile thing, or whatever you want to call it, is getting more competitive, and this revamp is not going to shut the door on competition — there’s Google and Facebook and Yelp and other applications,” Opus Research’s Sterling contended. “But Foursquare now has a bit of a brand and enough usage and visibility. It’s vanquished Gowalla, MyTown and other immediate rivals and is now playing in a larger field. Google’s very focused on this segment but has a lot to clean up.”

The app revamp “is in response to what other companies are doing, particularly Yelp and the new Google+ with Zagat’s integration, but Foursquare has some advantages,” Splash Media’s San Miguel suggested. “Facebook Places is no longer an issue for them; Groupon is running into some headwind, and Gowalla and other specific location-based service companies are either out of business or shut down by their new owners.”

Facebook purchased Gowalla last December.

“Everyone is competing for members, as that leads to advertising revenue,” Safko said. “Every network will add as many features of the other networks as possible to win members.” However, Foursquare “has features that none of the social networks offer,” and the revamped app will let it “keep existing users for a longer time and possibly get them to not switch back and forth between other networks and, with all the buzz, pick up some new, loyal users.”

Gunning for Businesspeople

Foursquare has not yet included features from its merchant platform in its new app, although merchants will reportedly have an option to purchase placements later this year.

The revamped app “presents a prime opportunity for businesses to leverage Explore as a way to encourage interactivity with customers,” Splash Media’s San Miguel pointed out. “Discounts and incentives can be coupled with requests to ‘like’ a business, upload images and leave recommendations.”

Foursquare “still has time to work up a nice, user-friendly merchant platform and maybe unveil it by the holiday season,” but should perhaps hold off on mobile ad initiatives for now because “the user experience is better with the app makeover, and ads might clutter up things at this time,” San Miguel stated.

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