How Foursquare is Growing Up

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of development for two of my favorite social platforms, Twitter and Foursquare.  Both have launched or announced several features that I believe are a significant step up for the services. At their origins, and despite their expansive 3rd party developer community, both Twitter and Foursquare felt like singularly focused products that could own only a certain portion of my attention and effort.  As they continue to evolve, however, it is becoming clear how they each could continue to provide more value, generate more interest and connect people on a deeper level than before.  In this post I will cover Foursquare's recent developments, and in another I'll dive deeper into Twitter.

The biggest critique of Foursquare when I tried to convince friends to use it was that they had no interest in letting people know where they are and having any serendipitous meetings.  I could understand that, but always felt it was a shortsighted look at the value of location data.  Now foursquare is building on-top of its check-in platform in in a number of interesting ways:

  • Activity tray
    While in itself not all that interesting, Foursquare's activity tray has paved the way for a deeper social experience within the app.  Now when a friend comments on a check-in, interacts with a tip you've left somewhere, or checks in to the same place as you Foursquare alerts you in a drop-down tray in the app.  In addition, Foursquare is starting to provide interesting notifications such as a "matchmaker" like functionality, where Foursquare alerts you that a friend has added a "to-do" at a location you've been meaning to try as well, and suggests you go together.
  • In-line photos
    To generate more conversation Foursquare turned to the most popular aspect of any social network- photos.  You've been able to snap a picture at a check-in for a while, but now your friends photos show up in the main newsfeed along with the check-in info.  This makes the newsfeed view a lot more interesting to browse and incentivizes people to take more photos.
  • Lists
    Though this is only a site feature for now, users and brands can create rich categorical lists of places they recommend.  Foursquare will even recommend list topics for you based on your check-in history, suggest places to add to those lists, and provide community pictures to go along with the list.  Friends can collaborate on lists together, too.  Lists are a great way to filter your check-ins into actual top recommendations for friends, put together itineraries, and more (pro tip: see my lists of Top NYC Pizza Places and Top NYC Coffee Spots and leave me suggestions).
  • Partner recommendations
    Foursquare launched the Explore tab a few months ago to make place recommendations for you based on your check-in history.  Now the Explore tab includes nearby, relevant recommendations for you from partners such as Groupon, Living Social and more.  Leveraging Foursquare's interest graph to improve a 3rd party experience is a powerful opportunity.  This feature shows the potential value in recording 2,000 life check-ins over the last few years.
  • Event check-ins
    Now when you check-in to a movie, concert or sports game you can actually go one level deeper and check-in to the actual piece of content, such as a film.  Foursquare has partnered with media properties for these libraries, and the integration includes filling the new micro-locations with reviews and stats to help people make decisions on their activities.  This puts Foursquare in direct competition with another one of my favorite apps, GetGlue.
All of these features combined have turned Foursquare from a singular experience into a robust social platform that users can spend time interacting with friends through, regardless of whether they can actually meet them in person.  In my own experience since these features I'm definitely seeing friends engage with Foursquare content much more- including adding more photos, commenting on more check-ins, and looking at lists.  I'm also finding that the Explore tab is becoming more interesting as it starts to recommend me places to go and corresponding deals that I can buy from 3rd party sites.   

In addition to being great for users, many of these features are excellent for brands.  Photos and lists in particular make brand offerings richer and more compelling, advancing the way brands can create value despite the incongruity of them not being a traditional Foursquare users.  As a marketer, I'm excited to think about new ways to use Foursquare to create interesting engagement programs.

So what do you think- has Foursquare's new features increased your use of the platform?  Have any of them in particular stood out?  What else are you looking for Foursquare to bring to the table?