Here’s the problem Facebook has, the world you start with in Facebook is when it’s most valuable. When many people build their Facebook accounts they have a group of friends in the real world and bring them into the digital world. (Example, when I was in college Facebook quickly became an addiction that fueled my social life, sadly.) But the thing about the groups of friends you were focused on when you join Facebook is that they’re not always your friends X years later. You outgrow them.
Enter this network called “Foursquare”, a social network with many of the same basic features of Facebook but with a different main focus… location. Location as context to a situation is always relevant, while you’re friend’s relevance changes over time. This makes the conversation on Foursquare much more of a utility to a user. You notice a friend checks in nearby… that’s a conversation starter. I’m not going to beat this dead horse too much, but Facebook always has to be on the look out for anyone who creates a socially relevant conversation. (Last time I checked that was Facebook’s bread and butter.) But then again that’s not the only major winning idea that Foursquare has.
Data is clearly king in the next age of social media. It’s not the best ideas that win in the long run. (I mean if that was the case Twitter would be killing it.) Rather its the companies that have all the data that have all the answers to winning. Instagram’s value wasn’t in the users… they were already using Facebook…. it was all about the data. For years Facebook’s Photo App housed the world’s photo taking data… but as users started using Instagram and more importantly stopped uploading all their photos to Facebook, that data was lost. Now we are in an age where data and the phone are the most important things a company can have. Foursquare has both. They’ve built platform on the phone first and have been collecting a spectacular understanding of how people move thru the world. (And to top it off they can personalize all that information against those people who you’ve identified as your “friends”.)
This last March at SXSW I had a lot go conversations about what a sleeping giant the explore feature in Foursquare might be. Then a few days ago with their new app release we saw what tomorrow looks like. It’s the next level of understanding the world around you. It’s not about Yelp or Zagat’s star ratings, those have been replaced by check-in data. Its one thing to know how good a place has been over time, but its a different thing to know what places are hot right now, which places are new, and what places have been redone. The world doesn’t care about what their friends like when it comes to what to do, it’s hard to bring that information into your everyday decisions… but if you know where your friends where checking in over time you’d know what your friends like and there for where to go.
I’m proud to say I used explore to plan my recent trip to New Orleans and it was a great experience, each tip was better than the last. Based on what I’m seeing in the space and on my phone, I’d say Facebook needs to take a serious look at Foursquare, because someone in the location/maps business is going to notice and that company will have a lot to gain in the data and base that Foursquare might just have.
Again I want to point out that I’m not saying Foursquare is going to over take Facebook. But as I’m pointed out a number of times before… Social is really and number of businesses and in the location part of the business Foursquare needs to stop being called the platform most like RC Cola and its starting to look more and more like a Pepsi or Coke.
Thanks for listening,