Foursquare has taken the smart phone set by storm. There are almost half a million users, each “checking in” at various businesses and vying for points which can lead them to unlock “explorer” badges and become location based “mayors”. It’s also a tool many use to meet new people; when you’re checked at a certain location, you can find others who are also checked in there.
It’s fun for users and the potential benefits for location-based businesses are considerable. What business wouldn’t want folks to push their location to the social media world? Great opportunities for specials, incentives and other promotional ventures are definitely there. Foursquare is cutting some big deals with national companies because of this potential.
I’m going to disclose my bias right now. I absolutely can’t stand Foursquare.
It’s the pollution factor. Foursquare users generate gazillions of meaningless tweets for those of us who follow them, especially on Twitter. It’s a parade of “I’m at Starbucks” , followed by the even more exciting “I just became mayor of Starbucks” or “I just unlocked the explorer badge at Starbucks.”
When we talk to potential new Twitter users, the preconception is this: that Twitter exists so people can tell each other where they’re hanging out and what they are having for lunch. Narcissistic junk.
Generally, our answer has been, well, you wouldn’t want to follow people who do that. Those people,we say, are not using social media to advantage. Twitter’s not narcisstic if used properly. Use social media to provide information, help solve problems, inspire, connect. Rather quickly, most Twitter users learn to provide value and not add “noise”.
So now we have Foursquare, bringing the noise, bigtime. Uncomfortably, many people we follow on Twitter who otherwise provide a lot of value are also messing with Foursquare. The social media gods are pushing it. There is a lot of trial right now.
We’re not unfollowing people who tweet their Foursquare locations, at least not yet. But still, it’s annoying. We hate to see Twitter undermined by a game.
There’s actually a much bigger problem with Foursquare, since by checking in and broadcasting your location, you’re also telling the world where you’re NOT. As in, not at home. Hello, burglars.
To graphically illustrate this issue comes a site called Please Rob Me, which picks up Foursquare tweets and offers the information to the web-o-sphere. As if the bad guys need help.
This is a serious issue, compared to the annoyance factor of useless tweets. It conjures up visions of “CSI-Virtual World”, a hot new show where villains hack to death hapless social media freaks each week to the sounds of mournful indie rock. PleaseRobMe.com obviously has hit on a real caution here.
I admit it, though. “I’m at Starbucks” is what bugs me. And it really bugs me.