General Mobile Marketing Social Media

@Dens Talks Data, Discovery in ‘Future of Fsq’ Session

March 12, 2013

When I arrived at the Austin Convention Center to hear Dennis Crowley (founder of Foursquare) speak about the future of location, I instantly checked into to the event from my Foursquare account. I figured this was fitting for obvious reasons, but I wasn’t expecting to be greeted with a special notification wishing me a happy third birthday on Foursquare at that very moment.

It was the perfect segue into Crowley’s talk about how Foursquare is using data to reach users in new ways. As a marketer – and as a personal user who admittedly was once a far more active user – I was interested to hear what Crowley had to say about the future of the application, and what he thought about new competitors that have been popping up in the space (specifically Google).

Anil Dash, co-founder of Activate and ThinkUp, began the session by asking Crowley what his response is when people approach him in the airport and ask him what he does. His reply: I tell them that I work on building technology for mobile phones that’s powered by mass relevance, and which helps people to find things near them. I found his answer to be a simple, yet effective way to describe the app that was launched at this very conference back in 2009.

The remainder of the session established Crowley’s vision to evolve Foursquare from a gaming platform (i.e. check-ins) to a utility platform. Here are the top three takeaways from the SXSW 2013 keynote:

There is more to Foursquare than badges and points. With more than 30 million users, Foursquare is sitting on a stock-pile of valuable user data. Although Foursquare still has its staple social currency – badges and points – Crowley emphasized that today’s platform is more focused on maps and recommendations than it is on the gaming aspect.

In fact, Crowley’s vision to make social discoverability of real-life locations easier was birthed from the fact that he used to rip out magazine articles (like ads for lobster rolls) and bring them out to restaurants. He thought there must be a way to mimic and even amplify this behavior via technology. We can all relate to seeing something that piques our interest, but forgetting to write it down and then kicking ourselves later on for forgetting it. Foursquare provides such digital reminders – and taking it a step further, can introduce you to places you may not have otherwise discovered.

Foursquare is here to stay. Foursquare’s API powers some of the hottest applications around: Flickr, Instagram, Path and Vine to name a few. With over 40K developers building on top of its API, the platform is not going anywhere anytime soon. Although Crowley did end up citing both Google and Facebook as big competitors, he noted that the “air is thin up there,” and that it’s not easy for many of these companies to play in the space.

Check-ins can help inform the masses. As an application that prides itself in serving its users the best of what’s nearby, check-ins can both inform mass groups of people as well as provide valuable information to business owners. Features like Specials and Deals are great for promoting loyalty among current consumers clearly interested (and visiting) a business – but Foursquare’s data can also connect merchants to new consumers through its recommendation engine.

“People ask: ‘How interesting can a check-in be?’ Individually, [it’s not]. As an aggregate, they are,” stated Crowley. He then proceeded to show an interactive map of New York check-ins during Hurricane Sandy, which really brought home just how much data this platform is able to aggregate.

Are you using Foursquare as a social discovery guide? Let us know in the comments below or send me a note via Twitter (@meganconley_).

Cover photo via Adweek