The Future of FourSquare

I'm not going to bore you with 'FourSquare 101' as I'm beginning to understand that a number of my readers are well adept to the industry and are actually for more from me. FourSquare, being the front-runner with Gowalla and Facebook quick on its heels, currently has the industry lead. But geo-located checkins are the name of the game and everyone wants a piece of the action.

OK, fine, here's a quick Wiki 101 on FourSquare:
Foursquare is a web and mobile application that allows registered users to connect with friends and update their location. Points are awarded for "checking in" at venues. Users can choose to have their Twitter and/or their Facebook accounts updated when they check in. In version 1.3 of their iPhone application, Foursquare enabled push-notification of friend updates, which they call "Pings." Users can also earn badges by checking in at locations with certain tags, for check-in frequency or for other patterns such as time of check-in.

 

The possible future for FourSquare and its developing competitors may look like this:

User-Empowerment –
There still is little that we can control about FourSquare. We have a profile, yes. We have awesome statistics on our locations, as well! But minimal customization for profiling and no direct way to embed the essence of the application within our own content (blogs, etc.) short of referencing locations back to the application. I'm seeing that in the future, people should not only be able to create rewards, badges and develop more robust incentive strategies – but allow for more visual customization of profiles and business pages. And I can't post photos to locations – why?

Increased rating ability –
"Shout outs" are great but sharing tips and extending rating to a user’s base, I think, will become more important, as well. Regardless of circumstance, FourSquare needs to extend greater ability for users to give both positive and negative (constructive, ideally) criticism to locations.

Sort ‘till my heart’s content –
I'd like to see greater sorting ability within categories, allowing users to cluster locations and send them to friends, perhaps, thus “incentivizing” them to checkin to those locations for "Justice's BFF Badge" or the likes.

Increase conversation –
Much like comment fields, forums and Google Buzz, we need to see great threaded conversation about checkins. Beyond simply rating things, we need conversations to take place about checkins in a more fulfilling manner. Wait and see – this might open a wonderful door for surveys and polling assisting businesses know what their customers really want.

Mobile application co-ops –
When developing location based applications for GPS-enabled devices in the future, FourSquare’s current API needs to be easier to use and more robust than ever. We're seeing a wave of applications coming to a screaming close because they were simply too short-sited to let others work cooperatively with them, and while FourSquare has done this admirably, it needs to continue and embrace doing so.

Nesting services, brands and communities –
Frankly, FourSquare's hot right now in the marketplace. And too expensive to work for given that you have a small brand that could successfully utilize their services. FourSquare (and all proximity-based applications) needs to be careful not to outsell themselves. Once the cache of this technology becomes normality, business models better be in place to service all takers before the Facebooks of the world make it as easy as creating a "Like" page.

Mapping exploration -
Loopt does a mediocre job of giving you an idea ‘where yo dawgs is @’ but it needs significant improvement. I'd love to see more mapping functionality, combined with photos and real-time connectivity with my followers. While, indeed, it does seem a little creepy, I think while we preach privacy we still want connectivity within the groups we trust. It would also be great to see sorting within these groups as well. If I'm downtown, click, there's my nightlife in a single action.

More game play –
Gowalla seems to have an edge with game play on graphics and allowing for "Founders" of locations, but it still seems thin to me. Watch the future of these applications look to Internet-based gaming and watch things like "clans" and levels come out it. Before you know it you'll be buying a Slurpee trying to get 'Titanium Mayor.'

Badges!!! –
I LOVE badges! And while I don't think they should be as easy to construct as Facebook "flair," I do think theye should be more badges for greater minutiae. I understand that it's part of FourSquare’s business model to construct and sell badges within a branded construct, but those badges should be held with greater exclusivity than user-created or 'minor' badges. Perhaps there's more of a user-based submission on evolutionary contests for badge creation?

Better rewards –
We need better rewards. While badges and points ARE cool, they're going to eventually be the Achilles heel to the product. With great loyalty should come great “incentivizing.” WeReward.com and others are seeing that there's real traction in garnering users by giving it away. FourSquare needs to start thinking about a better treatment of the people that do rack up the points. With 100+ to 1000+ users out there, you're seeing a real-time commitment with no current payoff.

Addendum to last point: When I was writing this post this came to light a day later -  Foursquare Now Experimenting with Badge Rewards

Previous FourSquare related articles:

Information for businesses wanting to get involved with location-based marketing, go here:

Nerd Merit Badges, I <3 U!