Has Facebook Places killed the FourSquare dream?

Fol­low­ing the re­cent an­nounce­ment of the launch of Face­book Places, there have been many blog­gers and so­cial me­dia ex­perts de­clar­ing the death of FourSquare as the next big thing in the world of so­cial me­dia, so­cial net­work­ing and geoloc­a­tion. What is the truth be­hind these pre­dic­tions? And does Foursquare have a way out of the prob­lems it faces with dir­ect com­pet­i­tion from Face­book?

The So­cial Graph Wars

The real­ity is that we are wit­ness­ing an in­tense war for the dom­in­a­tion of the so-called So­cial Graph. The main, and of­ten most ag­gress­ive, play­ers in this war are Face­book, Google and Twit­ter. All three are fight­ing to dom­in­ate this most-luc­rat­ive as­pect of our vir­tu­al lives and, as a res­ult, they are likely to ob­lit­er­ate new com­pet­it­ors along the way.

FourSquare’s lack of re­turn on (so­cial time) in­vest­ment

And this is where FourSquare is re­por­ted to be a vic­tim due to its lim­ited and nar­row func­tion­al­ity and re­sources. The real­ity is that FourSquare’s at­trac­tion is of­ten sim­il­ar to a brief and in­tense ro­mance, but not much more than that. I have seen many friends and pro­fes­sion­al con­tacts that start us­ing FourSquare en­thu­si­ast­ic­ally and check-in to prac­tic­ally every single loc­a­tion they vis­it. But soon after, users start won­der­ing what is the point of it all. We vis­it places, we check-in, some people can see where we are, get may col­lect a few badges and may­or­ships and that’s about it. No real re­turn from quite a bit of ef­fort. So, why is the ini­tial ap­peal so strong? My take is that FourSquare is simply ahead of its time and the real be­ne­fits will fol­low over the next 12/24 months when com­pan­ies fig­ure out how to com­mer­cially ex­ploit geo-loc­a­tion ser­vices for the masses and not just the early ad­op­ters.

Am I wrong? Maybe, but I was an early user of Face­book when it was still lim­ited to just US and UK uni­versit­ies and I had ex­actly the same feel­ing. In its early days, Face­book of­ten was a des­ol­ate place that was wait­ing for the masses to turn it in­to the so­cial be­hemoth it is today.

So, is FourSquare dead? If you com­pare its func­tion­al­ity to what Face­book Places is of­fer­ing, the truth is that FourSquare in­vestors must be get­ting quite wor­ried. Oth­er than badges and may­or­ships, all the FourSquare func­tion­al­ity is avail­able in Face­book Places. And you are likely to have many more friends us­ing Face­book than FourSquare. So the im­me­di­ate feel­ing is that Face­book Places will of­fer a vastly more re­ward­ing ex­per­i­en­ce im­me­di­ately. To the point that sev­er­al of my FourSquare con­tacts have already de­leted the their ac­counts and star­ted us­ing Face­book Places.

Linked­In and FourSquare: Pro­fes­sion­al Check-ins?

At this stage, we should stop for a mo­ment and real­ise that the people at FourSquare HQ are not go­ing to just sit tight and let Face­book kill their busi­ness off without a fight on their own. So, what op­tions do they have? One that I would sug­gest is find­ing a clear dif­fer­en­ti­at­or with Face­book and not fight them head on. And to me, one area where Face­book Places will of­fer a less­er com­pet­i­tion is the pro­fes­sion­al con­tacts space of the so­cial graph.

I like geo-loc­a­tion and have used both Face­book Places and FourSquare. And both are lim­ited in one area: Geo-loc­a­tion use for my pro­fes­sion­al con­tacts. These range from close pro­fes­sion­al re­la­tions to dis­tant ac­quaint­ances made at trade events or con­fer­en­ces. These pro­fes­sion­al con­tacts are nowhere to be seen in my Face­book space and, to be hon­est, I don’t think they should ever be.

So, this is where an area that I be­lieve that FourSquare could be ideally placed to ex­ploit and add a key dif­fer­en­tial as­pect com­pared to Face­book. And when you think of this, com­pan­ies such as Linked­In and Xing could be ideally placed to cre­ate close links with FourSquare. As a Linked­In user, I think that it would be ap­peal­ing for users to get check-in up­dates of their net­work or to have an idea of which con­tacts may be in the vi­cin­ity of my loc­a­tion. Speed net­work­ing any­one?

Linked­In already of­fers third-party ap­plic­a­tions such as Events and Trip­It. And, I’d ar­gue that if FourSquare wants sur­vive the So­cial Graph Wars and be a ma­jor play­er of the geo-loc­a­tion ser­vices that are still to come, they ser­i­ously need to move away from Face­book and find their own space. The link with Linked­In is prob­ably there for the tak­ing.

This is just one op­tion. Feas­ible? I would happy to hear your opin­ion and any oth­er idea that you may have.

Re­lated Art­icles


  1. John Bidder says:

    Yes. By far the greatest opportunity to exploit here is the professional/personal divide. Foursquare to businesses is a no nonsense distraction free tool for engagement with customers that offers additional customer intelligence and engagement. Fine. With Facebook there us the whole personal ‘baggage’ issue and I’m not sure at this stage whether the person on the street who’s not in business frankly gives a monkey’s uncle about checking in. In fact why on earth would someone not in business , right now at least, want to check in when the odds are they’ve been doing this all week ‘working for the man’? ‘What’s in it for me?’ is a great question. I like your idea of power networking for professionals too with shared office space being a growth area, through people like Biz Space in the UK, I think a social business checkin tool is exactly on the money and I don’t think that’s Facebook right now.

    • JoseCasal says:

      Thanks for the comment John. Fully agree with what you have said. Having used FourSquare and Facebook Places, I’m pretty certain that there is a certain “gap” in the professional network space that FB Places can’t and will not fill in in the near future.

      As an example, whenever I have been in London for business, I some times find myself with a couple of hours of time and wondering if any of my professional contacts will be “close enough” to maybe go for a coffee and catch up. It would be ideal to check-in with LinkedIn (via FourSquare?) so that my professional contacts can get an idea of where I am. And likewise I can get an idea of who is nearby.

      My current alternative to do this is Twitter (rather than Facebook) where I can send a quick tweet saying something like “I’m in London near xyz. Anyone around fancy a coffee?”

  2. Quora says:

    Are Foursquare and Gowalla go­ing to sur­vive now that Face­book Places has launched?…

    Face­book Places cer­tainly is at­tract­ive when I want to tell my friends and con­nec­tion where I am…They are already part of my FB net­work, so it’s lo­gic­al to use Places to broad­cast those mes­sages. However, I don’t think that FB Places will ever work…

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