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In my mind, Foursquare is becoming the new TripAdvisor for local businesses and looking at the data below, you can see how quickly it has grown. The screenshots have been taken from an infographic that FourSquare put together to highlight their growth.
This got me thinking about other things Foursquare could be doing to grow their online community and I couldn’t think of a better place to voice these thoughts. So here goes, the five things I think Foursquare should be doing to encourage more engagement.
1) Encourage Tips and Photo Uploads
The foundation of adding tips and uploading photos to Foursquare is already there and is being used by a large number of users, but wouldn’t it be good if there were more.
Since I have become an active Foursquare user I have been trying to leave constructive feedback for the places that I visit but often forget to do it. If Foursquare were to encourage users to leave tips and upload photos to places they frequent by giving more points, this would give a much better experience for the current user but more importantly for anyone looking to visit a place which is listed.
I have walked away from a restaurant recently after reading some of the tips and comments left by other users and without them I expect I would have had a terrible experience at the restaurant and wasted a good evening.
With the growing world of social media and other peoples recommendations playing a big part in individuals buying decisions, I think Foursquare should latch onto this, utilise what they already have and push it more.
2) Put More Onus on Business Owners
Last year it was announced that businesses could create pages on Foursquare to allow easier check-ins and additional information about a company. This could be taken to a whole new level and allow business owners to add a lot more information to entice more visitors to their company.
So, let’s say you are a restaurant owner, you might want to add:
A well-known restaurant in London is The Ivy and they have a Foursquare page which is being used frequently.
Being able to add more information about the restaurant would benefit them significantly as at present, they are reliant on user tips and photos uploaded by visitors. Adding this extra functionality for businesses would entice more companies to add and populate their pages with information and keep it up to date.
3) Link with Voucher Sites
Voucher sites have really taken off over the past couple of years and with the economic climate as it is, this growth is set to continue into 2012. I remember going into a restaurant four years ago, taking a voucher print off and quietly handing over the waitress! Back then, voucher sites were just starting but people didn’t like using them which is the total opposite of how things are today. Most of the time if you visit a restaurant chain, you will see people eating with the voucher print off sat on the table with them, it has just become the ‘done thing’.
Foursquare should take advantage of this peak and link up with some of the well-known voucher and discount sites like Voucher Code, Money Saving Expert, Groupon, My Voucher Codes and Wowcher.
If they could pull the offers into Foursquare this would give their existing visitor base another reason to use their iPhone/Android apps on the go and visit a business that is listed with a voucher discount.
Using GPS technology, it has become extremely easy for companies to market to customers that are within a specific proximity of their business. An example of how this could be used alongside voucher codes is this:
Once again, this would drive more awareness of Foursquare as businesses would be more enticed to keep their listings up to date and continuously add new content for users.
4) Uncovering New Places
If you uncover a new restaurant, shop or local amenity at present users are not rewarded for this. One of the biggest goals of Foursquare should have is to ensure that new places are added frequently as well as any closed down places are removed.
Over the past couple of months I have tried adding a few new places to Foursquare when it hasn’t picked it up and although I have successfully added one place, all other times I am returned with an error message telling me to try again later.
So section four is a bit of a two pronged approach for me:
Users on Foursquare check-in to places to boost the points and earn badges so giving people another way of increasing their stats could only be a good thing. Making it easy to add places will grow the Foursquare database and enhance the user experience.
One thing that I love about Foursquare is that you never know when you are going to uncover a new badge. A couple of months back, I went to the OMN Meetup which was held on the HMS President boat, moored on the Thames. Upon checking in, I unlocked the ‘I’m on a boat’ badge. The ‘Jobs’ badge was unlocked when I was in New York and I checked in to the Apple Store!
There are over 250 different badges that you can unlock so the game is definitely on (I have only unlocked 15 so far)!
This blog post gives you a list of all the badges and tips on how to unlock them. For Foursquare addicts, it makes a very good read.
5) Partner with Banks/Credit Cards
I have heard rumors about this already but wanted to add this for point five in case the rumors are not true.
In the USA, it is now possible to pay for things by swiping your phone over a machine. Square is a mobile application that was featured in The Independent back in 2010. It lets individuals and companies instantly accept credit card payments by a mobile device with the aid of a card reading device that simply plugs into the audio input jack of a mobile.
If Foursquare were to look into this, the technology could be embedded within the app allowing businesses to accept payments from users swiping the magnetic strip of their credit card through Square’s device to activate the payment.
Imagine how good it would be if Foursquare were to be a one stop shop for local businesses to be listed, add promotions, pull visitors into their business and take payments! A commission could be payable from the credit/debit card provider to Foursquare for linking with their system.
So there you have it, the five things that I think Foursquare could be doing to make their product even better than it already is. Seeing how much it has grown over the years is extremely impressive and I can’t wait to see what more they do over the next couple of years.