With the announcement of Foursquare’s $15 million deal with Microsoft that will see Foursquare integrated with Bing on all Windows platforms, it got the Speak Social team thinking about the struggling Social network.
In recent years, Foursquare proved unable to keep up with the draws of more straight-forward location & review platforms such as Yelp and Google Local. Much like Microsoft in the mobile market, Foursquare appears to be the third horse in a two-horse race. Perhaps it’s this factor that charmed Microsoft into this deal? Who knows?
One thing is certain, however, a two-horse race is never fun. Granted, when the two horses are Seabiscuit and Secretariat, it can be tough to catch a break. But we need to support those in the rear because competition spurs innovative among ambitious companies that provide us with fun toys. Thus, consumers and companies alike are left satisfied. Except, of course, the guy who comes in third.
So, with that in mind, here are three ways to improve Foursquare.
Fix a few existing problems
First, and foremost, Foursquare needs to fix a few lingering issues with its location tracker. For instance, one doesn’t necessarily have to be inside of a location to check in. Instead, if one is simply somewhere close, let’s say within 100 yards, he or she can check into a place with little problem. Why is this a big deal?
One thing that Foursquare has consistently had on its side is its gamification system. Unlike Yelp and Google, Foursquare awards people who visit an establishment and “check in.” If one amasses enough points from visiting a single location over-and-over-again, they can become “mayor” of that location.
Of course, such a game loses its luster once you find its glaring holes and people begin cheating. It’s no fun when I can check into a Taco Bell 15 times a day simply because it’s across the street from where I work. We want to feel like we, and everyone else who’s playing, have earned these points.
Which leads me to my next way to improve Foursquare …
lOVE tHY MAYOR
We could make an argument that Foursquare should either replace these points with something of actual value, or get rid of them altogether. Yes, establishments do offer Foursquare “Specials” for those checking in. However, this has nothing to do with how many points one has accumulated, or, more specifically, how many points one has accumulated at a single location.
If one manages to become Mayor of a certain location, he or she has no way of being rewarded when they visit – unless the manager at that location is smart enough to setup an incentive on his or her own. Otherwise, all a Mayor receives is an utterly pointless title that, depending on the location, could be equally as embarrassing as it is gloat-worthy.
What Foursquare needs to do is find a way to alert business owners when their “Mayor” is visiting, and offer him or her perks and deals to keep them coming and promote competition among other patrons. Currently brands use services like Speak Social to plan out this function, but there is no reason that Foursquare couldn’t build a better dashboard for brands into their platform.
Get bought by, or partner with, American Express
With the well-documented struggles of Foursquare, the rumor mill is swirling with potential suitors to purchase the platform. So, this has us scratching our collective heads as to who would be the best company for a buyout/partnership deal.
Google, Yahoo & Facebook would be deemed unsuitable because it wouldn’t fix the “two horse race” problem, instead, only making one horse even stronger. However, one potential suitor piqued our interest: American Express.
As one writer at medium.com put it, “Integrating Foursquare into the AmEx platform, while allowing them to run independently, much like Instagram and Tumblr do at Facebook and Yahoo, respectively, would put AmEx in a perfect position to stay ahead of the curve as mobile banking, and the mobile trend in general, continue to gain steam.”
Foursquare has already partnered with American Express before, so there’s certainly a familiarity factor. And what this would amount to is very substantial: a complete change in how we do mobile and online banking that could lead to a cardless future. Not to mention, it would be a big boost for Foursquare and American Express, both third horses in their own right.