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Why I’m done with Foursquare

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Why I’m done with Foursquare
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After over 1,100 check-ins, 39 badges earned, and over 200 friends gathered on Foursquare since 2009, I’m going to walk away for a bit. In a nutshell, my reason for moving on has to do with productivity and value.

One nasty by-product of the digital age is that we (people) feel compelled to join everything. Though I endorse the premise that you can’t understand all that’s happening in the mobile, social, local space unless you get involved, balancing time invested with value received can be tricky. Yes, you probably should have an active Twitter account (or two or three), Facebook page, use Foursquare or other similar location based apps, but at what cost does the learning come?

Becoming a digital “joiner” can develop into a tremendous time sink and requires a thoughtful approach to management, as Chris Brogan shared in this post. Like the story of the frog that boils to death as the water it sits in gradually increases in temperature, every enrollment into another digital service demands content contribution and interaction, not to mention another user name and password combination to be remembered.

I rationalized the time invested by telling myself that I had to be a regular contributor if I wanted to test the impact of various interactions and explore the business potential of building a big audience. But as the number of networks I joined increased, I began feeling more frog-like as my day inched closer to becoming “cooked”. Maybe we should have pity on the millions of Millennials being cooked every day in the same way. Possibly the best way to combat the constant barrage of distractions is to take heed of the “most frequent advice” being offered these days by Christopher S. Penn.

Excitement in the early days of Foursquare was sparked by my vision that local restaurants, retailers, and others would be promoting specials and offers on a constantly changing basis. At the least, I thought that the coupon book business would evaporate as these same offers were communicated digitally and in near proximity to the point of purchase. With offers scarce to be found, Foursquare simply created a de-facto trail of digital bread crumbs as I checked in during my travels from Vancouver to Miami to London. The novelty of the system had me engaged in light competition with friends for check-ins and mayorships.

Soon I became bored with check-in competition as there were no rewards to be gained, whether intrinsic or extrinsic. I realized that mayorship was rigged by routine. For instance, the only way you could become mayor at my local Panera Bread or Chili’s was if you worked there, and the chance of winning the benefit offered for mayorship, whether a free beer or a half price sandwich, was just above nil. Tell me how you outperform a server at your local Chili’s who checks in twice a day, and I’ll buy you that free order of nachos.

As the location based application market caught up with Foursquare, I expected to see the progenitor of the category refresh itself and pioneer change. Foursquare had all the opportunity to become a hub of education and marketing support for small business in local markets, but the transformation has yet to take place. There are plenty of offers from national chains that can be found in multiple cities, with Starbucks and Chili’s most visible to me. Sadly there are still too many local merchants who have not properly taken control of their location and fewer still use the channel to promote their wares.

Brands implementing a Contextual Loyalty plan are well-served to segment customer groups by their choice of communication channel just as they segment by value. Marketers focusing on connecting with Millennials should realize that their channel preferences are as invidual as their personalities. The same offer can be made in several channels while the engagement, uptake, and return on that offer will vary based on the percentage of your customer base active in the channel, and the value of that group to your business. In time, engagement and conversion can be measured and offers refined by channel for higher efficiency and better results.

In a previous post, I wrote that “time might be the most valuable reward in a loyalty program”. My time is valuable, as is yours, and triage of my social and mobile networks based on value and productivity leaves me no choice but to leave Foursquare at rest for a while. I’ll gladly return if I learn that relevant and valuable offers are being populated in the channel.

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